European Commission Pledges Babis Will Get Fair ShakeČTK
Brussels, (CTK) – The European Commission (EC) will proceed in an unbiased and a prudent way in the case of a suspected EU subsidy fraud, implicating Czech PM-in resignation Andrej Babis, to keep its trustworthiness, EU Budget and Human Resources Commissioner Gunter Oettinger said today.
He commented on the case before the European Parliament’s (EP) Budgetary Control Committee during a debate on the EU’s final account for 2016.
In his speech, Oettinger reminded of the “in dubio pro reo” legal principle or “[when] in doubt, for the accused,” meaning that a defendant may not be convicted by the court when doubts about his guilt remain. No charges have been brought in the case related to Babis, he added.
Oettinger again stressed that the final report of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the case of an alleged fraud accompanied the 50-million-crown EU subsidy for the Capi hnizdo farm, owned by Babis’s concern in the past, had been sent to the Czech Republic immediately after its completion regardless of the political situation in the country.
Czech MEP Tomas Zdechovsky (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) asked Oettinger about the investigation into the case.
However, he said he did not consider Oettinger’s comment sufficient though he welcomed the promise that both the EC and OLAF representatives would come to the EP to discuss the case again.
“We will demand more information to make the whole case more transparent,” Zdechovsky told CTK.
Last week, the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, met the police request and released Babis and ANO first deputy head Jaroslav Faltynek for prosecution in the Capi hnizdo case.
The daily Hospodarske noviny has published a Czech translation of the complete OLAF report that writes in conclusion that the Czech and EU laws were violated in the case.
Babis denies any wrongdoing. He says his prosecution is politically motivated, speaking about a mafia conspiracy.
However, the Finance Ministry decided to remove the Capi hnizdo project from the EU financing as the EC wished.
Oettinger said the EC would proceed in the case regardless of its impact on any politician from any political group. Babis’s ANO is a member of the EP group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE).
The rule of law is always applied in all member states, Oettinger said, adding that there are independent investigation bodies, independent courts as well as penal law in the Czech Republic as well.
EP Budgetary Control Committee deputy head Martina Dlabajova (ANO) said the committee had heard basically the same for several times. The EC can hardly meet the demand for publishing the OLAF report’s conclusion or be expected to comment on “the unauthorised release of the OLAF’s final reports or its parts in the press,” she added.
The Czech police have accused Babis of a subsidy fraud and harming the EU financial interests, and ANO deputy group head Jaroslav Faltynek of assisting in a subsidy fraud in the Capi hnizdo case. Another nine people are accused in the case, including Babis’s wife.
Until late 2007, the Farma Capi hnizdo company belonged to Babis’s Agrofert concern. Afterwards, its stake was transferred to bearer shares so that Capi hnizdo as a small firm could win the subsidy of 50 million crowns, which a firm of the huge Agrofert could never get. It observed this condition for a few years, but later it became part of Agrofert again. Moreover, the investigators concluded that there was no economic or trade reason to make the change.
In February 2017, billionaire businessman Babis transferred Agrofert to trust funds to comply with an amended conflict of interest law.