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MPs to debate Babiš-related Čápí hnízdo centre on March 23

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Prague, March 14 (CTK) – Jaroslava Jermanova (ANO), deputy chairwoman of the Czech lower house of parliament, has convoked its extraordinary session to deal with the Capi hnizdo resort of Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) for March 23, according to CTK information from the lower house.
The session was initiated by the opposition right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS) and TOP 09 on suspicion of an unauthorised drawing of EU subsidies for the construction of the Farma Capi hnizdo (Stork’s Nest Farm) conference centre in central Bohemia, now owned by Babis’s Agrofert concern.
Babis denies any wrongdoing.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) will not talk with Babis about the European subsidy for Capi hnizdo, Sobotka told reporters in Brno yesterday.
He said the investigation into the case was up to the police and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and that he expected its results to be made pubic.
The OLAF is now investigating the circumstances of the EU subsidy for the centre’s construction.
“I think that politicians should not replace investigators, state attorneys or judges,” Sobotka stressed.
He did not comment on the fact that the Chamber of Deputies would deal with the Capi hnizdo case at an extraordinary session next week.
Apart from the opposition, the government coalition partners from the CSSD and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) ask Babis for an explanation.
The Capi hnizdo case was revived of late when information emerged saying the authorities had imposed a fine of several million crowns on Capi hnizdo for a mistake in drawing subsidies.
However, Babis said previously the authorities had not found any mistake.
A part of the opposition points to a possible subsidy fraud in connection with the project that gained a 50-million-crown EU subsidy.
The Capi hnizdo firm belonged to Agrofert concern until 2007 or 2008. Afterwards, its stake was transferred to bearer shares for a small firm to reach the EU subsidies, 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.
Babis says he considers the case a political campaign against him.
However, the extraordinary lower house session on Capi hnizdo may not take place eventually if deputies do not approve its agenda.
Foreign Minister and CSSD deputy chairman Lubomir Zaoralek (CSSD) is of the view that Babis should explain the case at a meeting of the close leadership of the government coalition.
Babis issued a statement on Capi hnizdo at the weekend, in which he admitted “a less serious violation of budget discipline.” The firm had to return 3.7 million crowns from the subsidy, he said.
The Central Bohemia Region pardoned a big part of the fine and the firm only paid 37,000 crowns plus the corresponding penalty.
“No audit or check has ever said the subsidy was drawn at variance with the EU conditions,” Babis stressed, adding that he would send an explanatory letter to all coalition MPs.
Babis said at the weekend he knew the name of the owner of the Capi hnizdo conference centre from the time it had asked for European subsidies, but that he would not disclose it.
($1=24.398 crowns)

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