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Czech Agrofert denies hidden lobbying for EU subsidies

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Prague, Jan 5 (CTK) – Agrofert manager Petr Cingr is not guilty of hidden lobbying with the Czech Industry and Trade Ministry to change the rules of EU subsidies in the Operational Programme Enterprise and Innovations for Competitiveness (OP EIC) to its benefit, Agrofert spokesman Karel Hanzelka told CTK yesterday.
President of the Chemical Industry Association (SCP) Cingr spoke on behalf of the SCP that associates 86, primarily large companies, Hanzelka said.
According to a complaint now checked by the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF), an Agrofert manager had the civil service pass a change thanks to which the firm will get more money from EU funds, the server said earlier yesterday.
The crucial evidence is a letter sent by Cingr, deputy chairman of Agrofert’s board, to Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Tomas Novotny, who is in charge of 120 billion crowns of OP EIC, it added.
In his correspondence, Cingr, who did not sign himself as an Agrofert manager but as the SCP president, lobbied for an increase in the limit of subsidies for large companies to 40 percent instead of the 20 percent demanded by Brussels, the server said.
Novotny had the change made, the server said.
“Cingr has always spoken on behalf of the SCP, not of Agrofert. A routine, transparent letter was sent that did not demand the gaining of more subsidies for anyone,” Hanzelka said.
As SCP president, Cingr met Novotny last May, but there were perhaps 20 more people at the meeting, such as those from the Technological Agency of the Czech Republic, the CEZ national power company and the Finance Ministry, he added.
Cingr then wrote a letter to the SCP in which he proposed modifications in the OP EIC, Hanzelka said.
“We reject any linking of the affair with our firm. We do not know anyone checking the subsidies for Agrofert in this connection,” he added.
In September, the weekly Tydenik Dotyk said Agrofert had gained subsidies totalling 4.9 billion crowns in the ending programming period, the highest of all private companies in the Czech Republic.
Food and media mogul Andrej Babis Babis (ANO) is the owner of the Agrofert food holding. According to the Forbes magazine, his property is worth 2.4 billion US dollars, which makes him the second richest Czech after Petr Kellner.
($1=24.794 crowns)

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