Sunday, 22 April 2018

Babiš: Agrofert complains with EU court over OLAF enquiry

ČTK |
3 January 2018

Lany, Central Bohemia, Jan 2 (CTK) - The Czech Agrofert company has filed a complaint with the European ombudsman and the EU Court of Justice over the European anti-fraud office's (OLAF) recent enquiry into a EU subsidy to the Capi hnizdo firm, Czech PM and Agrofert's former owner Andrej Babis said on Tuesday.

Babis (ANO) was talking to journalists after a meeting with President Milos Zeman in the presidential chateau in Lany.

Last year, the Czech police levelled accusations against Babis over the 50-million-crown subsidy, which they suspect to have been drawn fraudulently in the late 2000s.

Simultaneously, an enquiry into the case was conducted by OLAF, which handed its final report to the Czech Finance Ministry in late December.

Babis said he has not read the OLAF's report. He said he expects Agrofert to receive the report and comment on it.

Babis owned Agrofert, a giant chemical, food and media holding, until last February when he transferred it to a trust fund in compliance with a new conflict of interest law.

"According to information from Agrofert, my former company, OLAF's enquiry had a very non-standard course, which is why a complaint has been filed [by Agrofert] with the European ombudsman, who confirmed that he will deal with the issue. At the same time, a lawsuit was filed with the European Court of Justice over the OLAF enquiry," Babis said.

He criticised the Regional Operational Programme (ROP) in Central Bohemia for having decided on granting the subsidy to Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest).

"It would be good if someone finally asked the ROP why it granted the subsidy," Babis said.

He dismissed the view that the 50-million-crown subsidy was stolen.

"No one definitely stole anything. The 50 million crowns have been invested in the [Stork Nest] farm, no corruption was involved," Babis said.

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 Agrofert.

In 2013, Babis said he did not know whom Stork Nest belongs. In 2016, he said in parliament that when the subsidy was granted, the Stork Nest was owned by his two children and his common-law-wife's brother.

The Czech police have accused a total of eleven people in connection with the suspected fraud, including Babis and ANO deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek. Since the two were re-elected MPs in October, the police have asked the Chamber of Deputies to release them for prosecution. The Chamber is yet to decide on the issue.

A part of lawmakers have asked the Finance Ministry to release the OLAF report. The same request has been addressed by MEPs to the EC.

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