Prague, May 10 (CTK) – The Central Bohemia office in charge of EU subsidies has called on the Imoba firm, the successor of the recipient of a subsidy granted to the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) project, over which PM Andrej Babis and others face prosecution, to return the 50-million-crown subsidy voluntarily, it said today.
In a press release, the office wrote that it sent a request in this respect to Imoba on May 4. Imoba, a part of the giant Agrofert Holding, should return the money in 30 days.
“On May 4, 2018, the Office of the Regional Council of the Central Bohemia Cohesion Region sent a call for a voluntary return of the subsidy to the company that is the successor of the original recipient of the subsidy designed for the ‘Capi hnizdo Multifunctional congress centre’ project,” the office wrote.
Its spokeswoman Klara Fronkova confirmed for CTK that the request had been sent to Imoba.
The Office previously pondered on whether to launch administrative proceedings against the subsidy recipient, its director Karel Munia said some time ago.
He told CTK today that the call on Imoba to return the subsidy is preceding the Office’s further steps, including the launch of administrative proceedings, which is a procedure set by law.
“First, we have to give a chance to the recipient to return the money voluntarily,” Munia said.
If administrative proceedings were launched and resulted in Imoba being ordered to return the subsidy, it would have had to pay a penalty worth 100 percent of the subsidy at the time when the subsidy was granted. At present, however, the penalty is not required any more, Munia said.
The Office previously said it will claim compensation for the possible damage if criminal proceedings are launched.
Agrofert spokesman Karel Hanzelka told CTK that Imoba has received the request. At present, the request is studied by lawyers and it will be discussed by the Imoba board of directors.
“We will comment on it afterwards,” Hanzelka said.
He said Agrofert insists that the subsidy was drawn in accordance with law, which several checks, made by various authorities, confirmed.
Seven people face prosecution over a suspected fraudulent drawing of the subsidy for the Stork Nest project. They include Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, his wife Monika Babisova, brother-in-law Martin Herodes and Babis’s two adult children.
Babis has repeatedly dismissed any wrongdoing.
The Farma Capi hnizdo company, under its previous name ZZN AGRO Pelhrimov, was part of Babis’s Agrofert Holding in late 2007, when it changed its status to become a joint stock company with bearer shares. In mid-2008, it gained a 50-million-crown European subsidy designated for small and medium-sized companies, which it could never gain as part of Agrofert. After a few years, it rejoined Agrofert. At present it is owned by Agrofert’s Imboba company.
Babis, in his former capacity as finance minister, transferred Agrofert, a chemical, food, agricultural and media holding, to trust funds in early 2017 to avoid a conflict of interests.