Sunday, 16 December 2018

Owner of Čapí hnízdo farm deems OLAF report absurd

ČTK |
12 January 2018

Prague, Jan 11 (CTK) - The Imoba company, the owner of the Capi hnizdo farm, deems the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) report on the Capi hnizdo case, in which Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) is suspected of an EU subsidy fraud, absurd and a result of political pressure, its spokesman Karel Hanzelka told CTK on Thursday.

According to Hanzelka, who also represents the Agrofert holding, from which the farm was set aside in the past, Imoba had no chance to fully comment on it during the investigation.

Imoba insists that the EU subsidy for Capi hnizdo was granted fully in line with the rules in effect.

"The company was informed about the start of the investigation by the OLAF office only three months before the release of the final report. The Imoba company was never told which act was being investigated by OLAF, it could not access the files repeatedly and, in contradiction with the European regulation, it could not address all the circumstances that were concerning it, Hanzelka said.

OLAF failed to include Imoba's substantial objections in its final report and neither paid attention to its complaint to the EU ombudsman, nor to the suit that Imoba filed over OLAF's procedure with the European Court of Justice.

Imoba further said that if OLAF denoted neither Babis, nor ANO's first deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek in its final report, it meant the office did not see them as suspects.

Imoba also criticised the fact that, as the owner of Capi hnizdo, it was cited among the concerned entities by the report, arguing that in the time of the subsidy's drawing, criminal liability was not attributed to legal entities according to law.

Until 2007, the Farma Capi hnizdo company belonged to Babis's Agrofert Holding concern. Afterwards, its stake was transferred to bearer shares for the 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.

The EU subsidy was approved 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.

Imoba made reservations about OLAF's statement as to Capi hnizdo being connected to Agrofert. Family ties to the farm's owners at the time of the subsidy's drawing alone did not mean that such a connection existed, Hanzelka said.

Imoba also said it was difficult to understand why OLAF criticised the farm for having anonymous owners through bearer shares, since it had not stated this form of ownership as inappropriate in the subsidy granting terms.

The Czech police accused Babis and Faltynek of a fraud related to the drawing of the 50-million-crown subsidy. The Chamber of Deputies is to decide on stripping them of their MP immunity and releasing them for prosecution next week. Both politicians claim that the prosecution has been politically motivated.

The Regional Operational Programme's regional council committee is to decide on Tuesday on the removal of the Capi hnizdo project from the EU funding, as has been proposed by the Finance Ministry. If removed, the paid funds will be deemed a national subsidy. Such result is, however, unlikely, as the parties in opposition to the government ANO have a majority in the committee.

The opposition said after the commitee's meeting on Thursday it did not want the project to be removed from the EU funding. Should it be removed though, proceedings for returning the subsidy money to the state budget should be launched immediately.

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.