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FinMin wants PM-related project’s withdrawal from EU funds

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Prague, Jan 4 (CTK) – The Czech Finance Ministry proposed on Thursday that the projects investigated by the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) or that are subject to administrative or criminal proceedings, including the Capi hnizdo project related to PM Andrej Babis, be deleted from EU-subsidised programmes.

OLAF has investigated the case of a 50-million-crown EU subsidy for the Capi hnizdo firm in which Babis is suspected of a fraud.

The police accused Babis and ANO deputy group head Jaroslav Faltynek in the case and asked the Chamber of Deputies for their release for prosecuting again since they were re-elected MPs last October.

Besides, the Finance Ministry proposed to accept the recommendations the European Commission (EC) sent to the Czech Republic in mid-December.

“The Finance Ministry has therefore turned to the Offices of the Regional Council of five Cohesion Regions and the Environment Ministry and proposed that the EC’s letter be accepted,” the ministry said in a press release.

It said the EC had proposed to delete 44 projects from six operational programmes.

If the Czech Republic did not agree with the EC’s proposal, it would face the risk of lowering European subsidies, which would affect the state budget, the ministry warned.

The decision to delete projects from the EU-subsidised programmes does not interfere in the ongoing criminal proceedings on a national level or influence possible future administrative proceedings on the stripping of a subsidy by its provider, the office said.

The subsidy provider has the full right to assess whether the subsidy conditions were violated or not, the ministry added.

“A possible removal from European funding in the given cases does not harm the Czech Republic and its fiscal interests at all. This is a common procedure,” the ministry added.

Last autumn, the police accused 11 people in connection with the 50-million-crown subsidy, including Babis and Faltynek.

The EC is now looking into the recommendations in the OLAF’s final report on the case. Czech authorities have not released the report yet.

Finance Minister Alena Schillerova (for ANO) said on Wednesday that the ministry had received many requests from citizens and institutions who wanted it to release the report based on the law on free access to information.

However, the Prague Municipal State Attorney’s Office on Tuesday recommended that the ministry should not release the OLAF report as it could thwart the ongoing criminal proceedings.

Referring to state attorneys’ position, Schillerova said she considers it crucial.

The ministry will make a decision on a possible release of the report by the end of the week.

Until late 2007, the Farma Capi hnizdo company, whose previous name was ZZN AGRO Pelhrimov, belonged to Babis’s Agrofert Holding concern. Afterwards, its stake was transferred to bearer shares for a small 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.

Critics say the transactions amounted to a subsidy fraud.

Citing its information about the OLAF report, the server has written that Capi hnizdo’s request for the subsidy contained untrue data. OLAF is convinced that Capi hnizdo belonged to Babis’s Agrofert at the time, not to his children, which he asserts. Both Czech and EU laws were violated in the case. Capi hnizdo was not eligible for the subsidy at all, wrote, citing the OLAF report.

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