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Babiš’s conflict of interest continues, politicians say

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Prague, Feb 3 (CTK) – Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis having put his shares of the Agrofert and SynBiol companies in trust funds to comply with the new conflict of interest law has not finally ended the dispute, some politicians told journalists Friday.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said he considers this a half-hearted solution.
Petr Fiala, leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said Babis did not have to get rid of Agrofert according to an amendment to the conflict of interest law.
However, the company would no longer be eligible for subsidies and incentives, Fiala said.
TOP 09 and the Communists (KSCM) also want to keep dealing with Babis’ conflict of interest.
“Above all, the law does not force Babis to transfer Agrofert anywhere. He only does this so that Agrofert may still draw state subsidies and incentives. This is the state of affairs,” Fiala said.
Babis, who was the only shareholder of Agrofert and SynBiol, said he placed 90 percent of the Agrofert shares and 100 percent of the SynBiol shares in one trust fund, and the remaining 10 percent of Agrofert shares in the other.
“I have thereby complied with the conflict of interest law. Unfortunately, the law has turned into Lex Babis, which is anti-constitutional, in my opinion,” Babis told CT.
Fiala said Babis’ having placed the shares in the two trust funds was the least painful solution.
“To a large extent, he will still have influence on Agrofert. Let us wait and see how this works,” Fiala said, adding that this did not seem to be a final solution to the affair.
Babis will keep a certain influence on Agrofert, TOP 09 deputy chairman Marek Zenisek said.
“But as we have been saying since the beginning, this is a sort of ethical principle for us. He should not be the owner if he wants to be a government member,” Zenisek said.
KSCM deputy chairman Jiri Dolejs said oligarchisation of politics posed a problem.
“We were not surprised at Babis technically getting rid of his influence on Agrofert, but the issue persists,” Dolejs said.
Babis is still a major political and economic player who will be watched by the Communists, he added.

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