Saturday, 21 April 2018

MEPs to demand OLAF report on case related to PM Babiš

ČTK |
2 January 2018

Prague, Dec 29 (CTK) - MEPs from the budgetary control committee will demand the European Anti Fraud Office's (OLAF) report on the case of an EU subsidy fraud in which Czech PM Andrej Babis is entangled in Janaury if Czech authorities do not release it by January 1, MEP Tomas Zdechovsky said on Friday.

Finance Minister Alena Schillerova (for Babis's ANO) said on Thursday that the Ministry would have a legal analysis worked out on whether the OLAF report can be published.

OLAF was looking into a 50-million-crown subsidy from the European funds allocated to the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) farm, which was owned by Babis's Agrofert concern.

The Czech police accused 11 people in the case, including Babis and ANO deputy group head Jaroslav Faltynek.

Both politicians deny any wrongdoing and say their prosecution is politically motivated.

"Andrej Babis has won public support and this is why citizens have the right to know whether the provision of the subsidy was in harmony with the EU regulations," Zdechovsky (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) said, justifying the MEPs' demands for the OLAF report.

He said he did not fear that the publication of the document would threaten the Czech police's work.

"A possible release of the report can in no case affect the Czech investigation. OLAF is an independent European body that conducted its own investigation and made own conclusions in the whole case. This si why I firmly believe that the Czech authorities did not wait for the results of the OLAF investigation and they made their own into the case," Zdechovsky said.

The opposition Pirates and TOP 09 asked the Finance Ministry for the OLAF report in the past days. The other parties in parliament also expressed interest in the document. They argue that this is necessary to assess the police request for the release of Babis and Faltynek for prosecution.

The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, released them in September. However, their prosecution was interrupted as both were re-elected to the Chamber of Deputies and regained lawmakers' immunity. The police asked for their release for prosecution again, and the lower house is to decide on it soon.

Until 2007, the Farma Capi hnizdo company belonged to Babis's Agrofert Holding concern. Afterwards, its stake was transferred to bearer shares for a small firm to reach a 50-million-crown EU subsidy, which a firm of the huge Agrofert Holding could never get. It observed this condition for a few years, but later it again returned to Babis's concern.

Billionaire businessman Babis transferred the Agrofert concern, including some media outlets, to trust funds in February to comply with an amended conflict of interest law.

The Regional Operational Programme for cohesion in Central Bohemia (ROP SC) approved an EU subsidy for the Capi hnizdo project in August 2008. The farm was opened in June 2010. However, Babis denied its ownership.

He said in 2013 that he did not know to whom Capi hnizdo belonged. In 2016, he told a session of the Chamber of Deputies that at the time of the acquisition of the subsidy, the farm was owned by two of his children and brother of his partner Monika, now his wife.

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