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Minister Babiš dismisses criticism by Die Zeit

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Prague, Aug 4 (CTK) – Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) dismissed the criticism of his conflict of interests that the German weekly Die Zeit issued yesterday and he said the article only repeated fabrications and rumours spread by Czech journalists and presented no new information.
The article was either written for a PR agency from the Czech Republic or it was the result of the ongoing pressure exerted by pro-European media that do not like his comments on the refugee crisis, Babis says in a written statement sent to Czech media.
Earlier this week, Babis wrote on Twitter that he would refuse to respect EU quotas for the redistribution of refugees even if the country was fined for this decision.
Die Zeit wrote that Babis is in a huge conflict of interests that has European consequences. It wrote that Babis is similar to the U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as both men want to run the state like a firm.
Babis said it is true that the firms of his Agrofert Holding have shown a relatively high increase in the subsidies they get since his appointment to the government, but he said this increase had nothing to do with his ministerial post.
“In 2014, big one-off investment subsidies for enhanced environment protection in chemical factories took place,” he said.
Babis said the previous governments, in which he had no part, decided on these subsidies.
He said the subsidies for the operation of agricultural plants were the same for all applicants. “Agrofert is the biggest Czech agricultural firm and so the total sum of its subsidies is logically high,” he added.
In reaction to European Parliament Budgetary Control Committee chairwoman Ingeborg Graessle, whose criticism of Babis Die Zeit quoted, Babis said Graessle seems to be making her opposition to him part of her political campaign.
He said it is noteworthy that the same people always appeared in German articles about him.
Die Zeit also mentioned controversial subsidies for the Capi hnizdo farm owned by Babis that are investigated by the Czech police and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
Babis said journalists have been frequently writing about his farm for six months, but nobody from the OLAF contacted anybody from his firms during this period of time. However, even if OLAF contacted anybody from his firms, it would not reveal anything because nothing illegal occurred in this case, he added.

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