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OLAF not to comment on Agrofert’s complaint in Čapí hnízdo case

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Brussels, Jan 3 (CTK) – The EU anti-fraud office OLAF will for now not comment on the suspicious drawing of an EU subsidy by the Czech Capi hnizdo firm, whose investigation it has completed, its spokeswoman told CTK on Wednesday, reacting to a complaint Agrofert sent to the EU ombudsman and the Court of Justice.

The EC spokeswoman, too, would not comment on Agrofert’s complaint.

Agrofert is a giant food, chemical and media holding which Czech ANO leader and new PM Andrej Babis owned until last February when he transferred it to a trust fund in compliance with a conflict of interest law, in his then capacity as finance minister.

The Farma Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) company was originally a part of Agrofert, which changed its status to a bearer shares company in late 2007. The police suspect the step to make Capi hnizdo eligible for the EU’s 50-million-crown subsidy designated for small and medium-size firms, which it could have never got as a part of Agrofert, to which Capi hnizdo returned a few years afterwards. The police investigate the case as a suspected subsidy fraud.

EC spokeswoman Mina Andreev said the EC is studying the recommendation which OLAF gave in its report on the Capi hnizdo case in December.

It is up to the Czech authorities to decide on the report’s release, she said.

Agrofert spokesman Karel Hanzelka told CTK on Tuesday that Agrofert’s complaint sent to the EU bodies is not its reaction to the OLAF report but that Agrofert filed it a few months ago when the OLAF enquiry was still underway.

A representative of the European Ombudsman’s office confirmed for CTK that the office obtained Agrofert’s complaint on December 14 and that Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly is studying it.

OLAF spokeswoman said OLAF, in its final report, presented its recommendations to the EC and the Czech judicial bodies, and it is up to these institutions to comment on possible further steps to be taken.

OLAF gave its report to the Czech Finance Ministry before Christmas. Babis said on Tuesday he expects Agrofert to receive the report as well and to comment on it.

Later on Tuesday, the Czech state attorney’s office recommended that the Finance Ministry does not release the OLAF report as it has been added to the Czech police’s file of investigation into the Capi hnizdo affair and its release could thwart the investigation.

In connection with the case, the police have asked the Chamber of Deputies to release Babis and ANO deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek for prosecution. The Chamber is yet to decide on the issue.

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