The newly established European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) has taken over the case of the conflict of interests of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), in which Czech investigators are investigating whether a crime could have been committed due to the use of subsidies or public contracts by the Agrofert Group. So far, the European Prosecutor’s Office has taken over 12 criminal cases from the Czech Republic concerning serious economic crime with an impact on the European budget, iROZHLAS reports. Babiš invested his companies, including Agrofert, in trust funds.
“The High Public Prosecutor’s Office in Prague is no longer active in the matter,” said the secretariat of the High Public Prosecutor in Prague when asked by the server whether the newly functioning European Public Prosecutor’s Office had taken over the conflict of interest case. The Prague High Prosecutor’s Office supervised the case. However, when the EU Public Prosecutor’s Office became operational on 1 June, it reported it to Luxembourg, where the institution is based. “It did not come out of any new evidence, but it is connected with the creation of a new institution,” said its boss Lenka Bradáčová last week.
The Czech police have been dealing with the Babiš case based on a broader criminal report since December 2019. Now the case has been handled by one of the authorized EU prosecutors operating in the Czech Republic. The team of investigators working on the case should remain unchanged, writes iROZHLAS.cz.
In addition to the Czech police, the European Union is also dealing with a possible conflict of interest of the Czech Prime Minister. According to the auditors of the European Commission, Babiš has a conflict of interest, as he controls the trust funds in which he has invested his assets. Subsidies from the structural funds of the European Union in the total order of hundreds of millions of crowns, which companies received from the Agrofert holding since 1 September 2017, are, therefore, according to the auditors’ conclusion, unjustified. Both the Prime Minister and Agrofert reject the conflict of interest.
According to the Prime Minister, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office is another institution that will intervene in the internal affairs of the Czech Republic and gain more and more powers for Brussels through the salami method, Nova television quoted him as saying. The case is purposeful and has long been investigated by the Czech authorities, which do not need help from “European bureaucrats”, he said. “But again, they have another ´bič´ for Babiš, and our well-known professional informers have another place to report,” Babiš added.
According to the European Public Prosecutor for the Czechia Petr Klement, cases taken over by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office have already been assigned to specifically authorized prosecutors, said iROZHLAS.cz. So far, five authorized plaintiffs have been appointed in the Czech Republic. “I can say a serial number. Currently, we have been reported about 45 cases, of which we have received 12 so far,” Klement said. He did not want to say exactly what the cases were regarding the internal rules of the EU prosecutor’s office.
“The cases we keep are really among the most serious according to the rules approved by the office. Other cases will be constantly challenged, so I believe that we will get too much higher numbers,” said Klement.
EPPO has been operating since the beginning of June, it will deal with serious economic crime harming the financial interests of the European Union. Under it will be representatives of all European Union countries except Poland, Hungary, Ireland, Sweden, and Denmark. These countries will not participate in the work of the Office. The EU institutions estimate that the EU lost about 460 billion euros (almost 12 trillion crowns) in 2019 alone due to various financial frauds. The prosecutor’s office estimates that it will deal with approximately 3,000 cases a year.