MEP’s Come Away Empty Handed – EU Refuses to Release Babis Fraud ReportČTK
Prague, Jan 4 (CTK) – The European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF) has refused to release its report on the Capi hnizdo firm’s case of a possible EU subsidy fraud of which PM Andrej Babis is suspected to Czech MEPs, the financial paper Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes today.
Only the Czech authorities or the European Commission (EC) can release the document, OLAF Director-General Nicholas Ilett argues.
“OLAF Director-General Nicholas Ilett replied that he cannot release the report or its conclusions and recommendations to me. Only the EC or Czech bodies can do so,” Czech MEP Michaela Sojdrova (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) told the paper.
This is why she intends to turn to EC President Jean-Claude Juncker to get the report. There is no problem to respect the fact that some parts of the document cannot be made public, she said.
“However, I do care for the conclusions and recommendations exactly because this is such a politically sensitive issue,” she told HN.
Another MEP Tomas Zdechovsky (KDU-CSL) and Green Party deputy chairman Petr Kutilek tried to get access to the OLAF report in vain as well. The Czech media also failed with such a request.
HN writes that a similar case occurred in Hungary last year. OLAF sent its report on the investigation into an EU subsidy for the Budapest underground to Hungarian bodies. OLAF told Hungarians that its possible release was up to them and that it would not interfere in this. The report was released eventually and is still available on the Internet.
The Czech police seek prosecution of ANO chairman Babis on suspicion of a subsidy fraud and harming the EU financial interests and ANO deputy head Jaroslav Faltynek for assisting in a subsidy fraud in the case of a 50-million-crown EU subsidy for the Farma Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) company.
It is owned by Agrofert, a giant food, chemical and media holding that Babis owned until last February when he transferred it to a trust fund in compliance with a conflict of interest law.
The Capi hnizdo firm changed its status to a bearer shares company in late 2007. The police suspect the step to make Capi hnizdo eligible for the EU subsidy designated for small and medium-sized firms, which it could have never got as a part of Agrofert to which Capi hnizdo returned a few years afterwards.
The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, released Babis and Faltynek for prosecution last September. However, their prosecution was interrupted as both were re-elected and regained lawmakers’ immunity last October. The police asked for their release for prosecution again, but the lower house has not decided on it yet.
The EC is now looking into the OLAF’s final report. Czech offices have not released it yet.
However, Finance Minister Alena Schillerova (for ANO) expects her office to propose that the Capi hnizdo farm be deleted from the list of EU-subsidised projects. The ministry will announce its stance to the respective institutions by the end of the week.