Sunday, 27 September 2020

Zaorálek wants officer sacked over freezing orders misuse

ČTK |
18 October 2017

Prague, Oct 17 (CTK) - Czech Social Democrat (CSSD) election leader and Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek will ask the cabinet that Martin Janecek be sacked as Financial Administration (FS) head due to a suspected misuse of property freezing orders to liquidate firms, as in the cases reported by media, he said on Tuesday.

Zaoralek also wants Alena Schillerova to leave the post of deputy finance minister, he told journalists, adding that he wants to submit his proposals at the cabinet meeting on Monday and also discuss them with Josef Postranecky, deputy interior minister in charge of civil service.

Furthermore, Zaoralek will ask the supreme state attorney and the police president to question the people involved in the cases of the FS freezing orders cracking down on companies, as described by the Seznam Zpravy server, Zaoralek said.

The Finance Ministry said on Tuesday the claims that the office had intervened illegally in the work of the FS in the specific cases were untrue.

Zaoralek said he is reacting to the stories showing that under Andrej Babis as finance minister from January 2014 to May 2017, property freezing orders were used to liquidate companies that were bothersome to Agrofert, a giant holding in Babis's possession.

The media information can be verified in the insolvency register, Zaoralek said.

"I am resolutely asking Zaoralek not to come up with similar serious accusations at a press conference, but, if specific evidence is available to him, he should fulfil his duty and inform immediately the relevant law-enforcement bodies," Finance Minister Ivan Pilny (ANO) said.

He mentioned the KM Plus company, whose accounts the FS suddenly froze, citing a suspected subsidy misuse. KM Plus's rival company was interlinked with Babis's Agrofert, he said, referring to Seznam Zpravy.

Protesting against the server's story, Agrofert said it has no information about the FS's steps, nor does it know the KM Plus company.

"The mere fact that former Agrofert employee Vlastislav Mudrak is the brother of KM Plus's rival has brought the journalists to the absurd conclusion that Agrofert knew about the FS's steps," Agrofert spokesman Karel Hanzelka said.

The FS said in a press release that it had reasons to intervene against KM Plus, and it will present them if relieved of confidentiality obligation.

"The fact that the FS's step was rightful has been proved by two court verdicts that confirmed the reasons for us to issue a freezing order," the FS wrote.

According to Zaoralek, the state might face arbitrations and a subsequent threat of having to pay compensation to the companies that would exceed the sum the state [FS] collected in taxes from them.

"Someone acted like a steamroller only because this afflicted his rival businesses...[the state will] pay dearly for this in arbitrations, the people will claim compensation," Zaoralek said.

Zbynek Stanjura, chairman of the deputy group of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said Zaoralek, too, was to blame for the abuse of the freezing orders,

"It was this government, of which he is a member, that considerably widened the use of this instrument," Stanjura said.

He said it was also the current government which appointed to their posts both Schillerova and Janecek, whose dismissal was demanded by Zaoralek.

At a meeting in September, the lower house budget committee agreed that the FS, which falls under the Finance Ministry, should apply the freezing orders only exceptionally and should consider their impact on businesses.

The opposition called for Janecek's dismissal, but Finance Minister Ivan Pilny (ANO) defended the FS and spoke about a media campaign against it.

If the cabinet discusses Janecek's sacking on Monday, it will be after the general election scheduled for this weekend.

The committee's debate reacted to an audio recording showing Babis speaking about the FAU company that ended up bankrupt last October following the FS's crackdown.

Babis was finance minister at the time.

FAU has a fuel storage facility in the compound belonging to the Precheza company in Prerov, north Moravia, which is a part of Agrofert.

Copyright 2015 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved.
Copying, dissemination or other publication of this article or parts thereof without the prior written consent of ČTK is expressly forbidden. The Prague Daily Monitor is not responsible for its content.