Prague, Feb 10 (CTK) – Agrotec, a part of the Agrofert Holding which Czech billionaire Deputy PM Andrej Babis owned until recently, unlawfully manipulated public but a court has halted its prosecution because the firm did its utmost to prevent the crime, state attorney Zdenek Matula has told CTK.
Matula, from the High State Attorney’s Office in Prague, has lodged a complaint against the court decision on the case concerning Agrotec’s contracts with the state-run Czech Post.
It will be discussed by the High Court in Prague.
Matula said the lower-level court acted based on the amended law on criminal liability of companies that came in force in December.
As a reason for halting the prosecution, the court cited the law’s article that enables to lift criminal liability from a company if its statutory representatives or leading employees are suspected of crime and if the company took all possible efforts to prevent the crime, Matula said.
“The court concluded that the act in question did take place, it is a crime and it was committed by the charged company, whose criminal liability, however, ceased to exist after the company proved that it had done its utmost to prevent unlawful behaviour of its employee,” Matula said.
Matula said Agrotec had an internal compliance programme including an ethical code that bans its staff from acting unlawfully, and that the suspected employee had vowed to observe.
Agrofert Holding said it disagrees with Matula’s interpretation of the court decision and believes that no crime occurred and no damage was caused in the Czech Post case.
“From our point of view, the company could not commit a crime. We believe that the High Court will uphold the municipal court’s verdict and definitively halt the criminal proceedings against Agrotec,” the holding’s spokesman Karel Hanzelka told CTK.
Agrotec is a part of the Agrofert Holding, which Babis (ANO) owned until last week, when he transferred it to trust funds to comply with a new conflict of interest law.
Ten people and four companies faced charges in connection with the affair concerning the Czech Post.
The Prague High Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against the suspects with the Municipal Court last June.
The case is comprised of two parts, concerning the Czech Post’s contract for construction works and a planned purchase of tyres and spare parts for postal vehicles, respectively. Four people have been charged in the former case, and two people and the supplier company, Agrotec, in the latter.
They are suspected of agreeing on an advantage in placing public procurement, an offence carrying up to eight years in prison.
Besides, the charges include bribery and a violation of economic competition rules.