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Audio shows Babiš comment on crackdown on Czech rival firm

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Prague, Aug 27 (CTK) – A new audio recording with Czech ANO leader and former finance minister Andrej Babis’ statements has appeared on Twitter, showing him comment on FAU, a firm that ended up bankrupt after an intervention of the Financial Administration (FS), a body controlled by the Finance Ministry.

Babis was finance minister from 2014 until May 2017.

FAU has a warehouse in a complex belonging to the Precheza company, a part of Agrofert, the giant chemical, agricultural and food processing holding which Babis owned before transferring it to a trustee fund this February to comply with a new conflict of interest law.

Earlier this week, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote, citing court verdicts, that the FS’s intervention was unlawful.

“Our people cracked down on FAU, which is therefore insolvent now, with frozen accounts, train carriages,” Babis says in the one-minute audio recording that, like several previous ones, has appeared on the “Suman” anonymous Twitter account.

It is not clear when Babis was speaking and to whom.

FAU went insolvent last October, and a court launched bankruptcy proceedings against it two months later. Babis was finance minister at the time.

“I bought Precheza in 1997 and they sold the railroad spur to another firm before the privatisation. As a result, the railway spur in my chemical company’s complex belongs to the fuckers,” Babis says in the recording.

He also speaks of entrepreneur Tomas Pitr whom the media mentioned in connection with FAU’s deals.

“It has been bought by Pitr now and of course, we are going after them. They are a criminal gang that owes some 200 million crowns to the state in [unpaid] taxes,” Babis says.

Asked by server to comment on the recording today, Babis said he “really would no longer comment on illegally made audio recordings that are aimed to harm me by means of manipulation.”

The FS has dismissed having liquidated FAU, an Opava-based fuel trading company, on purpose. It dismissed HN’s information that FAU has gone bust because of the FS’s intervention against it and that Precheza had shown interest in the warehouse, where also biofuels were added to diesel oil and petrol. FAU did not want to sell it, however, according to HN.

Agrofert spokesman Karel Hanzelka has told CTK that Agrofert group has never been eyeing FAU nor has it anything in common with the company.

HN wrote that first the customs authority, also subordinate to the Finance Ministry, focused on FAU two months after Babis became minister in 2014. The FS then froze FAU’s assets but courts described the step as unlawful and cancelled the freezing order.

Afterwards, the FS asked FAU to pay twice 200 million crowns worth of VAT, twice for one deal, since it suspected FAU of being a part of a chain fraud and prone to tax evasion, and it also wanted FAU to pay as a guarantor for the bankrupt Verami company. An immediate distraint followed and FAU ended up bankrupt, HN wrote.

A court recently confirmed that FAU was not obliged to pay VAT at all and it called the FS’s arguments in support of its tax exaction procedure absurd.

In separate proceedings, the court challenged the FS-issued orders for freezing companies’ property as a practice at variance with law.

FAU owners are going to claim compensation for the damage from the state, HN wrote.

($1=22.098 crowns)

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