Prague/Brussels, June 6 – Czech PM Andrej Babis insists on his doubts about the independence of the European Anti Fraud Office (OLAF), investigating the Capi hnizdo case, in which he is suspected of a subsidy fraud, he said in reaction to OLAF Acting Director Nicholas Ilett rejecting his words today.
“I insist on my statement and have no reason to change anything in it. OLAF had its corruption affairs in the past,” ANO chairman Babis, who is criminally prosecuted in the Capi hnizdo case, said at a press conference after the government meeting today.
It has been proven that the OLAF’s work was politicised, he added.
Babis said in January in connection with the case of a 50-million-crown EU subsidy for the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) farm and conference centre that OLAF was not independent and that the whole affair was politicised both in the Czech Republic and in Brussels.
Ilett dismissed this. During its ten-year existence, OLAF has proven that it is working independently and it is defending its independence, Ilett pointed out.
Hardly anybody doubts this now, Ilett said at a press conference on the OLAF annual report for 2017.
He insisted on the office’s independence not being questioned.
OLAF faced no external pressures in the investigation into the Capi hnizdo case or in any other inquiries, he stressed.
Babis, who is to be appointed as PM for the second time today, faces a criminal prosecution on suspicion of an EU subsidy fraud and harming the EU financial interests in connection with the Capi hnizdo project. Babis denies any wrongdoing.
OLAF closed its investigation into the case at the end of last year, confirming a suspicion of an EU subsidy fraud. It concluded that both Czech and EU laws were probably violated in the case.
The Czech Finance Ministry decided in January to withdraw the Capi hnizdo project from the EU-subsidised programmes as the European Commission required.
Illet reminded that OLAF had never investigated Babis as a private person, but it dealt with subsidies for a particular firm.
In the case of any doubts, the firm can turn to Czech courts or the EU court in Luxembourg and it would be up to them to decide, said Illet, a British citizen who has headed OLAF since last October.
OLAF was founded in 1999 to protect the financial interests of the European Union. Formally, it is part of the EC’s structure.
The Farma Capi hnizdo company, under its former name ZZN AGRO Pelhrimov, was a part of Babis’s Agrofert chemical, food and agricultural holding in late 2007, when it changed its status to a joint stock company with bearer shares. In summer 2008, it gained a 50-million-crown EU subsidy within a programme for small and medium-sized companies, which it could never have gained as a part of Agrofert.
After a few years of meeting the subsidy condition, it rejoined Agrofert. At present, the Capi Hnizdo company is owned by Imoba.
The past Chamber of Deputies released Babis and ANO first deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek, who was also accused in the Capi hnizdo case, for prosecution in September 2017, but they regained the MP’s immunity after the last autumn general election. The new Chamber released them for prosecution again on January 19.
Another six persons are accused in the case, including Babis’s wife Monika, his brother-in-law Martin Herodes and Babis’s two adult children from his first marriage. The police originally prosecuted 11 people.
In early May, the state attorney rejected Babis’s complaint against his criminal prosecution, but Faltynek and another three of the accused succeeded with their complaints.