Prague, April 27 (CTK) – Aides to Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) have drafted an analysis targetting the core of the business activities of Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) and the ways he got rich, the regional daily Denik.cz said yesterday.
They want to know how he acquired the Agrofert holding, Denik.cz writes.
Babis, 62, is one of the richest Czechs. Last October, the Forbes magazine put his property’s value at 70 billion crowns and said Babis was the second richest businessman after PPF investment group owner Petr Kellner (255 billion) in the Czech Republic.
The Euro weekly, too, said Babis is second richest, but it estimated the value of his property at up to 120 billion crowns.
Until early February, Babis had the 100 percent stake in Agrofert, the biggest Czech agricultural company, employing 34,000 people.
The Agrofert holding includes the Mafra publisher issuing the national daily newspapers Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) and Lidove noviny (LN). It also owns the free daily Metro, publishes the dailies TEMA and 5plus2 and operates the news portals iDNES.cz and lidovky.cz. The group Mafra also owns the television stations OCKO, OCKO Gold and OCKO Expres.
In February, Babis transferred the shares of his firms, including Agrofert and Mafra, to trust funds.
He reacted so to an amendment to the conflict of interest law, dubbed Lex Babis, which curtails the access of the firms owned by government members to some form of state support. The legislation was then challenged by President Milos Zeman and ANO members of the Chamber of Deputies at the Constitutional Court, which has not yet dealt with it.
Sobotka’s spokesman Martin Ayrer has declined to comment on the affair.
The analysis has 70 pages including addenda, Denik.cz writes.
At its end, it asks 22 questions that relate not only to the one-crown bonds Babis issued under controversial circumstances or Babis’ incomes for the sale of the shares of the companies Profrost, Afeed CZ and Affed to Agrofert, but also to the fund Hartenberg, the firm Imoba, the Capi hnizdo resort and Agrofert itself.
In March, the Chamber of Deputies called on Babis to refute “serious” suspicions of tax evasion by the end of April.
The lower house said if Babis did not fulfil the demand, Sobotka should intervene.
Babis wants to give an answer by Friday.
Sobotka said on Monday the time given to Babis should be respected.
However, he told Denik.cz that he was increasingly alarmed.
“With the suspicions, Babis is threatening not only the trustworthiness of our government and its three-year successful work, but also the trustworthiness of the state,” Sobotka said.
“As the prime minister, I cannot ignore the affair itself,” he added.
Denik.cz writes that Sobotka’s aides focused on the substance of Babis’ business activities and the ways he got rich.
The report asks the question: “How did manager Andrej Babis acquire the 45 percent share in Agrofert worth almost two billion crowns 17 years ago and where did he get the money for it if his published net income was only 8.3 million crowns until 2000?”
The analysis also wants Babis to explain his transaction from 1999 when he “bought a 10 percent share in Agrofert for the mere 2.5 million crowns from the semi-state company Spolana, while its real value was several hundred million crowns,” Denik.cz writes.
Denik.cz writes that if Sobotka insists on answers to all the questions, the affair cannot end but by Babis’s dismissal.
($1 = 24.735 crowns)