Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Pirates: Babiš still controls Agrofert, it should return subsidies

ČTK |
26 July 2018

Prague, July 25 (CTK) - The huge holding Agrofert should return the subsidies and payments for state procurement because it is still controlled by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO), the Pirates said in a press release issued on Wednesday.

The Pirates said they reached this conclusion based on an analysis of legislation and consultations with experts.

Agrofert spokesman Karel Hanzelka told CTK that the holding has a different opinion and that Babis does not control it.

Under the law on the conflict of interest, firms controlled by the cabinet members cannot receive subsidies and sign contracts with the state.

In February 2017, Babis, then finance minister, transferred the Agrofert and SynBiol companies to trust funds so that these companies could continue drawing subsidies and applying for public contracts.

The Pirates said they asked the office administering the Swedish register of companies and a Polish law firm about the definition of the person controlling a firm.

Anti-corruption analyst Janusz Konieczny said firms which are part of Agrofert received subsidies unlawfully. "The law on the conflict of interest has been violated because Andrej Babis continues to be the person in control of the holding and he is a cabinet member at the same time," Konieczny said.

The Pirates said the law on international cooperation in tax administration considers not only the founder of the trust fund but also the fund's beneficiary to be the person in control of the fund. This should also apply to subsidies, the party said.

Hanzelka said Agrofert shares are owned by trust funds that have their administrators. He said Babis had no right to influence the activities of these administrators or the management of the holding and he had no control over the holding.

Hanzelka said Babis only had the right to dismiss the administrator provided that the administrator violated his or her duties in administering the trust fund.

The Pirates said Babis should decide either to keep controlling Agrofert and receiving huge subsidies or to keep his posts in top politics.

Pirates analyst Petr Fojtik said it can be proven in some cases that big companies are advantaged by the current subsidy policy. "There is the suspicion that the conflict of interest is misused," he said.

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