The Senate called on the government to immediately start collecting subsidies from the Agrofert holding concerning the audit of the European Commission. The upper house decided on this today on the proposal of its commission for the supervision of the provision of public funds. At the same time, the Upper Chamber stated that the conclusions of the audit confirmed the suspicion of a conflict of interests of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš with Agrofert and an error in the evaluation of individual projects.
According to the Senate, the government should also abandon in the future attempts to pay subsidies from the European general budget “for projects for which it is reasonable to believe that they are affected by a conflict of interest”.
The chairman of the ODS and TOP 09 senators, Zdeněk Nytra, recalled the decision of the European Parliament, which also called on the Czech authorities to protect Czech taxpayers’ money and force Agrofert to repay unduly paid subsidies. The legally non-binding resolution supported the European Commission’s audit, according to which Babiš has a conflict of interest, as Agrofert controls through trust funds in which it has invested its assets, and at the same time participates in the distribution of EU subsidies in the Czech Republic.
The prime minister has long denied that he had a conflict of interest. He described the resolution as interfering in the internal affairs of the Czech Republic. “If I have information, there are lies and slanders about the Czech Republic and the Czech state. I assume that the ministers will study it and, as in the past, will react,” he told reporters.
In total, the findings in the audit related to projects worth 113 million crowns. According to the iROZHLAS.cz server, the Czech Republic reimbursed the companies of the Agrofert holding from the state treasury for the criticized projects of approximately 155 million crowns. These are a subsidy of 100 million crowns for the construction of a line for toasted bread by Penam, 50 million for Lovochemie to improve the production of fertilizers, and two subsidies together for about five million for the replacement of grain dryers for Cerea.
According to the final audit report published by the European Commission at the end of April, Babiš controls the trust funds in which it invested the shares of its companies in 2017 due to the Conflict of Interest Act. According to the audit, the Prime Minister has a conflict of interest and Agrofert is not entitled to any subsidies from the EU structural funds from 9 February 2017, when the amendment to the Czech Conflict of Interest Act became effective.
Babiš described the audit as purposeful and manipulated. The Prime Minister and other representatives of the government have repeatedly stated that there are two legal opinions in the matter, between which an independent court should decide. Agrofert also denies any wrongdoing from the outset, noting that the authorities did not communicate with him about the inspection.
In February, Primagra of the Agrofert holding filed a lawsuit with the Court of Justice of the European Union against the European Commission. It wants to release subsidies blocked based on an audit of a possible conflict of interest of the Prime Minister.