Brussels/Prague, Feb 14 (CTK) – MEPs may ask for the final report of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the case of a suspected EU subsidy fraud, implicating Czech PM Andrej Babis, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, reacting to a question by MEP Tomas Zdechovsky who reported on it today.
Zdechovsky (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) is a member of the European Parliament’s (EP) Budgetary Control Committee (CONT) that dealt with the case of a 50-million-crown EU subsidy for the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) farm, owned by Babis’s concern in the past.
MEPs can have access to the OLAF report, though it is classified and was not published, if they conclude they need it to use their right to supervise the drawing of finances from the EU budget. They can ask for the report’s results within the procedure enabling the EP to demand classified information from the European Commission (EC), Juncker said in a letter to Zdechovsky.
According to him, Juncker confirmed the right of the CONT members to get acquainted with the results of the OLAF investigation into the case behind closed doors.
The committee might deal with the Babis-related case at its February meeting, Zdechovsky added.
The EC president thereby refuted the previously published untrue statements by some Czech politicians saying the MEP have no right to ask about the case and demand the investigation results, Zdechovsky said in his press release.
This is no “expedient behaviour” by the MEPs, about which Babis repeatedly tried to persuade the public, but a standard procedure the committee applies to all EU-funded projects, he added.
The CONT debated the Capi hnizdo case at its January meeting. EU Budget and Human Resources Commissioner Gunter Oettinger said then that the EC would proceed in an unbiased and a prudent way in the case to remain trustworthy.
The police accused billionaire businessman Babis of an EU subsidy fraud in the Capi hnizdo case. 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.
Babis denies any wrongdoing. He says his prosecution is politically motivated, speaking about a mafia conspiracy.
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.
The investigators concluded that there was no economic or trade reason to make the change.
In February 2017, Babis transferred Agrofert to trust funds to comply with an amended conflict of interest law.
The Finance Ministry announced in late January that the Capi hnizdo project was withdrawn from the EU-funded programmes.