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PM to ask minister to check financial body’s FAU action

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Prague, Aug 28 (CTK) – Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told media today that he will ask Finance Minister Ivan Pilny to check the Financial Administration’s (FS) intervention against the FAU firm under the preceding minister, Andrej Babis, to see whether the ministry interfered in the FS’s work at variance with law.

The Finance Ministry reacted saying that the FS’s FAU action is now being assessed by the Supreme Court (NS), to which the FS conveyed all its arguments and pieces of evidence.

It is therefore evident that any further investigation would amount to beating a dead horse, mainly in a situation where the finance minister does not have access to details about individual tax proceedings, the ministry’s spokesman Michal Zurovec said.

In an audio recording that appeared on an anonymous Twitter account on Sunday, Babis, the billionaire leader of the ANO movement who was finance minister from 2014 to May 2017, speaks about the Opava-based FAU fuel-trading company that ended up bankrupt after the FS’s intervention.

“Our people cracked down on FAU, which is therefore insolvent now, with frozen accounts, train carriages,” Babis says in the one-minute audio recording.

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

Babis would not comment on the recording on Sunday, but he did not deny its authenticity.

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

Citing a court verdict, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote last week that the FS’s intervention was unlawful.

Zurovec said the ministry agrees with Sobotka that the system of the FS’s property freezing orders must be subjected to a thorough analysis to show whether the FS’s current methods work effectively.

“For this purpose, Ivan Pilny, immediately after becoming finance minister in May, tasked the FS head Martin Janecek to complete the relevant analysis by the end of August,” Zurovec said.

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.

“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.

HN wrote that Agrofert’s Precheza is interested in FAU’s warehouse, which FAU refused to sell. Agrofert dismissed the information.

The FS, on its part, has dismissed HN’s information that FAU has gone bust because of the FS’s purposeful intervention against it.

Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said he will send a letter to Pilny (ANO) today and ask him to check the FS’s action.

“I want to ask him to check the affair to see whether the FS’s steps were in harmony with law and to make their circumstances clear. I will also ask him to check whether the ministry’s management unauthorisedly interfered in the operation of the FS tax administrator,” Sobotka said.

He said the affair must be duly checked and he expects all necessary information from Pilny within 30 days, he said.

Lower house budget committee head Vaclav Votava (CSSD) said the committee is to discuss the FS’s property-freezing orders in mid-September. It wants to invite Janecek and Pilny to the meeting.

Babis’s ANO is a favourite of the October 20-21 general election. The runner-up CSSD is ANO’s government partner and simultaneously the biggest election rival.

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