Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has described a European Commission
preliminary report suggesting that he is in conflict of interest as
“highly irregular”. The document, published by Czech media outlets on
Friday, says that he has command of trust funds that control the Agrofert
Mr. Babiš told the Czech News Agency that the Commission had last year referred to European law in connection with his links to Agrofert but was now pointing to Czech legislation.
The prime minister suggested the section of the new report referring to the country’s conflict of interest law may have been written by Czechs. The arguments used were the same of those of the Czech Pirate Party and Transparency International, he said.
Mr. Babiš later tweeted that an “informer” was behind the report, adding that no money would be returned.
The European Commission says that all EU subsidies received by Agrofert since February 2017 should be returned. It put the figure that the Czech state should seek back from Agrofert at CZK 450 million.
In a separate matter, the police have recommended that Mr. Babiš face criminal charges of abusing CZK 50 million in EU subsidies in connection with a hotel and conference centre near Prague.
The European Commission has preliminary found Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in conflict of interest over EU funds paid to the Agrofert holding he founded and placed in a trust two years ago. The confidential audit reportedly concludes that millions of euros in EU subsidies Agrofert companies received last year must be returned.
The Czech prime minister’s possible conflict of interest regarding EU
subsidies to the holding Agrofert is an absolute priority for the European
Commission in view of EU budget protection, European Commissioner Gunther
Oettinger said on Wednesday.
The European Commission has conducted an extensive audit at Czech ministries regarding the subsidies for Agrofert amounting to some two billion crowns. Transparecny International warned of Mr Babiš’s possible conflict of interest last year, saying he continued to benefit from the holding despite placing it in trust funds.
In a letter to Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský, Mr Oettinger said the results of the audit are being carefully analysed. Czech authorities are set to receive the results of the audit in mid-May.
The Pirate Party has urged the European Commission to make public the
results of its investigation into an alleged conflict of interest on the
part of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in connection with the company
Agrofert, which he placed in trust funds two years ago.
The Commission‘s auditors launched an investigation into the matter on the grounds of a complaint made by the Czech branch of Transparency International and the Pirate Party who claim that Mr. Babiš is still able to influence Agrofert despite having placed it into trust funds to meet a strict new conflict of interest law. They also say that as prime minister he has influence over negotiations on the EU budget and the use of European funds in the Czech Republic.
The Pirate Party has urged the Commission to make public its findings as soon as possible in view of the upcoming European elections.
The European Parliament voted in December to suspend subsidies to Agrofert until the matter is cleared up.
The Czech prime minister has denied any wrongdoing saying the affair is a politically motivated slander campaign against him and his ANO party.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has been re-elected chairman of the ANO party that he founded seven years ago, running unopposed at the party’s congress on Sunday. Polls show Mr. Babiš remains the most popular, trusted politician in parliament, and ANO would win general elections if held today. So, what direction is he looking to take the party – and the country?
Czech Prime Minister Andre Babiš has slammed a report by Deutsche Welle,
which said foreign workers employed in a company linked to Mr Babiš work
in very poor conditions. The report, which was published on Tuesday, also
said the foreign workers arrived in the Czech Republic in terrible
circumstances. The ANO party leader said the article was fabricated and
full of lies.
The author of the report cited a Vietnamese, who used to work in the poultry factory Vodňanská drůbež in Mirovice, about 80 kilometres southwest of Prague, which belongs to the Agrofert Holding, founded by Andrej Babiš.
Mr Babiš turned Agrofert into trust funds in 2017 in order to comply with the conflict of interest law, but his critics say he is still in control since the trusts are managed by his family members and lawyers
The Czech authorities plan to introduce controls on the border with Poland
to ensure bad meat does not enter this country, Novinky.cz reported. The
minister of the interior, Jan Hamáček, told the news site that the police
would carry out checks on Polish trucks in coordination with veterinary
Around 300 kilogrammes of bad Polish beef is known to have been imported into the Czech Republic, despite officials from both countries saying none had crossed their shared border. Several EU states imported beef from a Polish abattoir accused of handing sick cows.
The Guardian has devoted attention to what it calls the breakthrough
verdict of the Černošice council on the Czech prime minister’s alleged
conflict of interests.
The Guardian notes that the Černošice council is the first Czech institution to declare that the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, still controls the giant multi-industry group Agrofert, even though he put the conglomerate into trust funds to meet a strict new conflict of interest law.
The daily notes that the verdict, issued on January 21st, could have wider resonance by influencing the outcome of the European Commission’s investigation into Agrofert’s receipt of EU subsidies in recent years. The prime minister has responded with anger to the Černošice ruling, which he described as “politicised” and vowed to challenge it.
The Czech branch of the international watchdog Transparency International filed a complaint both with the European Commission and the Černošice council - a small municipality just outside Prague where Babiš lives - because Czech law states that conflict of interest complaints must be registered with the relevant local authority.