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FAU relieves state administration of secrecy obligations

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Prague, Aug 29 (CTK) – The Czech FAU fuel-trading company has relieved the Financial Administration (FS) of secrecy obligations so that it can release details of a case in which it is suspected of having tried to liquidate FAU on purpose at the request of former finance minister Andrej Babis.

After the FS’s intervention last year, FAU went insolvent and later bankrupt. Babis, the chairman of ANO and finance minister from 2014 to May 2017, has dismissed having ordered the intervention.

FAU’s lawyer Alfred Sramek released the documents in which the trustee in bankruptcy, Lukas Zrust, relieved him of the obligation to secrecy towards the media.

At the same time, Zrust assigned Sramek also to relieve the FS, the Customs Administration (CS), the Finance Ministry and Babis himself of the obligation to secrecy.

He said he did to so to protect the rights and the good name of FAU.

Babis said he considers his own relieving of the obligation of secrecy a provocation on the part of FAU.

“I am not a minister any more and I have never been the FS head. I have nothing in common with the affair, it is a provocation once again,” he said, reacting to Sramek and Zrust.

Babis added, nevertheless, that he is glad that the FS will have a chance to defend its steps.

FAU owns a warehouse located in the complex belonging to the Precheza company, a part of the giant chemical, agricultural and food processing holding which owned before transferring it to a trust fund in February.

After the FS’s intervention, including a property-freezing order, FAU went insolvent last October and a court launched bankruptcy proceedings against it two months later.

On Sunday, an audio recording appeared on Twitter with Babis speaking of a crackdown on FAU.

On Monday, Babis dismissed having misused or tasked either the FS or the Customs Administration while minister.

A court previously called the FS’s intervention unlawful and cancelled the property freezing order.

Commenting on the court verdict, the FS said today that the court did not challenge the need for FAU to repay its unpaid tax to the FS, but it only rejected the FS’s claim that FAU also pay VAT for its bankrupt supplier as a guarantor.

The FS said situations like FAU’s commitment as a guarantor are not mentioned by law. That is why it is necessary for the Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) to decide on the case.

In reaction to this, FAU’s lawyer Sramek said FAU is conducting 12 court disputes against the FS and the CS.

“We insist that FAU does not and did not owe any money in unpaid taxes. In two cases, the Ostrava Regional Court has already decided in favour of FAU,” Sramek said.

In both these cases, the Financial directorate and the Customs directorate lodged cassation complaints with the NSS, Sramek said.

As far as the remaining ten disputes are concerned, not even the lowest-level verdicts have been ruled as yet, he added.

The also FS said today it had cogent reasons to suspect FAU of being part of a carousel fraud involving huge VAT evasion.

It has been proved that FAU controlled the transport of goods and the flow of money within a vast fraudulent chain, the FS said.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) called on Ivan Pilny (ANO), Babis’s successor in the ministerial post, once again today to check the FS’s procedure in relation to FAU and repeated that he expects the results within 30 days.

In reaction to Sobotka’s request on Monday, Pilny said the case is being checked by the NSS and a check by the minister would be beating a dead horse.

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