Prague, (CTK) – Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerova (for ANO) expects her ministry to propose that the controversial Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) firm, whose suspected fraudulent drawing of an EU subsidy has been investigated by the police, be deleted from the list of EU-subsidised projects, she said today.
“In my opinion, we will propose the deletion,” Schillerova said, adding that the EC recommended this step in its letter from December 18.
“We take the letter very seriously,” she said.
Last autumn, the police accused eleven people in connection with the 50-million-crown subsidy, including ANO leader and the new prime minister, Andrej Babis, and ANO deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek.
By the end of the week, the ministry will convey its decision on Capi hnizdo’s deletion to the relevant institutions such as the Regional Operational Programme in Central Bohemia (ROP SC), which approved the subsidy for the Capi hnizdo farm and recreation resort in August 2008, Schillerova told journalists.
The subsidy drawn by Capi hnizdo was checked by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in recent months, and its final report on the enquiry, including recommendations, is now being studied by the EC.
The Czech authorities, including the Finance Ministry, have not released the OLAF’s report for the time being.
Until late 2007, the Farma Capi hnizdo company, whose previous name was ZZN AGRO Pelhrimov, belonged to Babis’s Agrofert Holding concern. Afterwards, its stake was transferred to bearer shares for a small firm to reach a 50-million-crown EU subsidy, which a firm of the huge Agrofert Holding could never get. It observed this condition for a few years, but later it again returned to Babis’s concern.
Critics say the transactions amounted to a subsidy fraud.
Citing its information about the OLAF report, server Neovlivni.cz has written that Capi hnizdo’s request for the subsidy contained untrue data. OLAF is convinced that Capi hnizdo belonged to Babis’s Agrofert at the time, not to his children, which he asserts [without being able to prove it]. Both Czech and EU law were violated in the case. Capi hnizdo was not eligible for the subsidy at all, Neovlivni.cz wrote, citing the OLAF report.
Opposition TOP 09 deputies’ group head and former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek said he has read the OLAF report but does not have it, otherwise he would have released it to the public.
“The report clearly states that the subsidy was won fraudulently based on untrue data submitted by the applicant and that the subsidy should never have been paid,” Kalousek said.
The report recommends that the EU withdraw from the project, which should be covered by the relevant member state, and that the member state should subject the case to criminal investigation,” Kalousek said, adding that by no means is the OLAF report a secret document.
Schillerova said the ministry has received many requests from citizens and institutions who want it to release the report based on the law on free access to information.
However, the Prague Municipal State Attorney’s Office on Tuesday recommended that the ministry should not release the OLAF report as it could thwart the ongoing criminal proceedings.
Referring to state attorneys’ position, Schillerova said she considers it crucial.
The ministry will announce its decision on whether to release the report by the end of the week, she said.
Schillerova said she has not read the OLAF report, which, she said, is available to a narrow group of ministry officials only.
She has had only a brief summary of the report worked out, from which it ensues that OLAF has completed its enquiry and made certain recommendations that it sent to the EC.
“It is up to the EC to take a position on the issue,” Schillerova said, emphasising that the EC had recommended Capi hnizdo’s removal from the EU-subsidised projects still before OLAF’s report appeared at the end of December.