Prague, Jan 8 (CTK) – It is unsuitable that Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) questions the authority of the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Czech deputy chairman of the European Parliament Pavel Telicka told journalists on Monday.
This harms democracy both on the national and European levels, Telicka said.
Along with Babis’s other statements about European affairs, this does not help improve the Czech position in the EU either, he added.
Telicka was elected to the EU for ANO, but last year, he gave up the position of ANO’s foreign policy expert and cut ties with ANO.
Untrue and incomplete data were provided in the application for an EU subsidy for the Capi hnizdo conference centre that was owned by Babis, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes on its website on Monday, citing the OLAF report.
This may be qualified as a fraud and violation of the financial interests of the EU, the OLAF says, adding that the anonymous ownership structure of the Farma Capi hnizdo company was at variance with the transparency principles of the EU funding rules.
The Czech police accused Babis and further ten people of misusing the EU subsidy of 50 million crowns. The lower house of parliament is yet to decide whether it would release Babis for criminal prosecution.
Until late 2007, the Farma Capi hnizdo company belonged to Babis’s Agrofert concern. Afterwards, its stake was transferred to bearer shares for a small firm to win the subsidy, which a firm of the huge Agrofert could never get. It observed this condition for a few years, but later it became part of Agrofert again. Moreover, the investigators concluded that there was no economic or trade reason to make the change.
In February 2017, billionaire businessman Babis transferred Agrofert to trust funds to comply with a new conflict of interest law.
The subsidy for the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) was granted within the ROP Central Bohemia in 2008. The Stork Nest countryside conference centre opened in 2010. Babis repeatedly dismissed the view that he is its owner.
“I respect the presumption of innocence. However, I cannot accept it and I consider it very unfortunate and socially harmful if the authority of the relevant body is undermined, while no clear evidence [of Babis’s innocence] is presented. This has not happened,” Telicka said.
OLAF may make mistakes but it is inadmissible for politicians to try and discredit it, he added.
Telicka also said that President Milos Zeman did not fulfil his promises and if he were re-elected, he would respect the government even less than now.
He said Zeman’s re-election in the forthcoming presidential race would be bad news for the Czech Republic, adding that he was considering voting for former Czech Science Academy chairman Jiri Drahos, businessman and lyricist Michal Horacek or former ambassador to France Pavel Fischer, but has not yet made up his mind.
“I can hardly find a promise Zeman has fulfilled,” said Telicka, who recently launched an online campaign warning of Zeman’s unfulfilled promises.
He spoke about Zeman’s promise before his first election that he would not seek re-election, the promise that he would not bring any aides to the Presidential Office and the statement that a president should not pursue a different foreign policy than the government.