The deputy head of the State Environmental Fund Leo Steiner, who suspended
state subsidies to a company in the Agrofert conglomerate due to a possible
conflict of interest on the part of the Czech prime minister, Andrej
Babiš, has left his post, the news site Seznam.cz reported on Thursday.
Steiner himself confirmed that he had left at the end of August, saying that his superior wanted to start disciplinary proceedings against him for giving the media information about the suspension of the subsidies. Steiner said he had broken the internal regulation intentionally.
The European Commission has agreed to postpone the deadline by which the
Czech Republic must respond to the Commission’s first draft audit on
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’ suspected conflict of interest until
September 2, Czech Radio reported.
The European Commission originally set the deadline for the beginning of August, but the Regional Development Ministry requested a month-long extension, arguing that the audit was complex. According to the EC’s preliminary findings the Czech prime minister has a conflict of interest and the Czech Republic may subsequently have to return some 450 million crowns in EU subsidies paid to the Agrofert business conglomerate he founded.
The police have started a criminal investigation into the financial
management of the Stork’s Nest Farm and Hotel Complex, which is part of
the Agrofert conglomerate established by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the
news site Neovlivni.cz reported on Tuesday citing police spokeswoman Eva
According to Neovlivni, the police suspect the firm of extensive tax evasion. Agrofert spokesman Karel Hazelka said the management of the conglomerate had received no information on the case, but ruled out any financial irregularities at the firm.
Police earlier concluded an investigation into the Stork’s Nest Farm in connection with suspected EU subsidy fraud and proposed that Prime Minister Andrej Babiš be charged. The state attorney’s office dealing with the case has not yet reached any conclusion.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš who established the multi-billion crown agro-chemical empire put it into trust funds two years ago in order to meet a strict new conflict of interest law.
Czech farmers will receive 32 billion crowns in subsidies in the 2019-2020
period with the bulk of the money coming from EU funds, according to the
spokeswoman of the Czech Agricultural Intervention Fund Vladimíra
They are being drawn by 31,000 farmers and agricultural companies, including those in the Agrofert conglomerate, which is at the centre of a dispute relating to the prime minister’s suspected conflict of interests.
According to Nováková these are direct and compensation subsidies which cannot be questioned in relation to the prime minister’s possible conflict of interests. She added that the EC had not questioned their distribution.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has launched a massive counter-offensive to the preliminary EU audit concluding that he has a conflict of interest due to strong links to his former business empire. While he refuses to meet with the organizers of the street protests against him, he has taken every opportunity to present himself as the victim of a targeted smear campaign intended to drive him out of politics.
The State Agricultural Intervention Fund (SZIF) will suspend all further
subsidy payments for Agrofert group projects approved after February 2017,
when Prime Minister Andrej Babiš transferred the group to trust funds in
order to comply with a new Czech conflict of interest law, the head of the
State Agricultural Intervention Fund Martin Šebestyán said in response to
a second preliminary audit by the European Commission on Thursday. He
confirmed that between 2012 and April 2019 the fund paid out 6.5 billion
crowns to Agrofert companies.
The State Agricultural Intervention Fund will also suspend all further money to the Agrotrade company run by the brother and father of Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman of the Social Democrats. The head of the fund said the steps were being taken as a precautionary measure in connection with the findings of the European Commission’s second preliminary audit relating to agricultural subsidies.
The second report also states that Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has a conflict of interest, though it does not say how much EU funds the Czech Republic may have to return as a result. According to the Czech media a considerable part of the report is also devoted to Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman, whose family runs an agricultural business.
According to the head of the State Agricultural Intervention Fund the EC audit does not specifically state that Minister Toman has a conflict of interests but the Czech Republic has been asked to explain certain matters of procedure in connection with the case.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš remains defiant in the midst of a storm following the leaking of a preliminary EU audit which states that he has a conflict of interests and the country many have to return close to half a billion crowns in EU grants as a result. The prime minister insists that the country will not have to return anything and has refused a call for him to ask the lower house for a vote of confidence in his minority government.
The embattled Czech prime minister, Minister Andrej Babiš, has refused a
call from the opposition for him to ask the lower house for a vote of
confidence in his minority government. Mr. Babiš made the announcement
shortly after a meeting of the coalition government which discussed the
present political situation in the light of a preliminary EU audit stating
that the prime minister has a conflict of interest.
The prime minister’s coalition partner, the Social Democrats, and the opposition Communist Party, on whose support the minority government relies, have indicated that they would continue to support the coalition government for the present time.
The head of the Social Democrats Jan Hamáček said that if it were confirmed that the companies in the Agrofert conglomerate, established by Babiš and placed in trust funds, had received grants in violation of the law the money should be returned. He said he had continued faith in the “coalition project”.
Last week’s leaked preliminary EU Audit, which found Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to be in a conflict of interests, continues to make headlines across the country. Mr. Babiš has denied any wrongdoing. Civil servants are now waiting for an official Czech translation to be sent after which they will send their state’s reply to the findings. I asked the director of the Transparency International’s Czech branch, David Ondračka, whether he thinks there is any chance the findings of the preliminary report will change in the final version.