Prague, Sept 14 (CTK) – The state has signed three deals on granting subsidies worth 6.5 million crowns to firms that are part of Agrofert, a holding built by current PM Andrej Babis, and also to firms of Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman’s father, which may be at odds with the EU rules, the Pirates have said.
The opposition Pirates said the subsidy deal, which the State Agricultural Intervention Fund (SZIF) signed on behalf of the government, might violate the EU’s new financial directive against the conflict of interest.
In reaction to the Pirates, SZIF spokeswoman Vladimira Novakova asserted that neither Minister Toman (Social Democrats, CSSD) nor Babis, who owned Agrofert until February 2017 before transferring it onto trust funds, could have influenced the administration of the applications for subsidies.
“The SZIF…is responsible for signing agreements on subsidies. We believe that it had enough time to acquaint itself with the EU’s new directive. We have informed the SZIF management about the conflict situation as well,” said Stepan Rattay, head of the Pirate deputy group analytic team.
He said the SZIF should reassess the deal and withdraw its decision to pay out the subsidies or at least postpone the payment until it is clear how such concrete conflict-of-interest cases should be approached.
Novakova said there is no reason for the SZIF to withdraw or suspend the subsidies as the applying companies, including those from Agrofert, have met the relevant criteria.
According to open data, Agrofert shares have been transferred onto two trust funds and are not owned by any person, neither the company’s founder nor its trust administrator nor beneficiary, which is why the SZIF sees no reason for the subsidies not to be paid out due to an conflict of interest as defined by the EU financial directive, Novakova said.
She said the SZIF will be monitoring the development of the opinions on interpretation of the new EU directive.
Babis transferred Agrofert onto trust funds in early 2017 in order to comply with the new Czech conflict of interest law.
Agrofert, the largest agricultural, chemical and food-procession holding in the Czech Republic, employed 33,000 people and its revenues crossed 155 billion crowns last year.