Prague, Feb 2 (CTK) – The Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) farm keeps receiving subsidies for small and medium-sized businesses from the Czech state, although it is part of the big concern SynBiol, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes today.
The Capi hnizdo farm and conference centre was owned by billionaire Andrej Babis, current Czech prime minister. Babis is prosecuted over a suspected EU subsidy fraud related to Capi hnizdo. The Czech parliament recently stripped Babis of his MP’s immunity to allow his prosecution.
HN writes that the Capi hnizdo farm annually receives tens of thousands of crowns for farming or transport of animals to horse shows from the Agriculture Ministry, even though the farm’s owner, the Imoba company, is part of the SynBiol concern, which had a turnover of 3.4 billion crowns in 2016.
The Agriculture Ministry originally said the Capi hnizdo farm did not get any state subsidies in 2008-2017. It presented a list of the subsidies paid to the farm only after it was told that Capi hnizdo annual financial reports mentioned these subsidies, HN writes.
According to the rules, only firms with up to 250 employees and an annual turnover under 50 million euros (1.3 billion crowns) are authorised to receive these subsidies.
PM Babis did not want to comment on the issue. “I am not going to deal with it because I have nothing in common with SynBiol,” he told journalists.
Babis was the only shareholder of SynBiol until February 2017 when he transferred it to a trust fund.
The Agriculture Ministry said it is the subsidy applicant who bears the responsibility for meeting the conditions.
Vit Mares, head of the Czech association of sheep and goat farmers, told the paper that Imoba and the Capi hnizdo farm submitted subsidy applications in the previous years, including their statement that they meet the conditions.
HN writes that Imoba did not answer its questions concerning the subsidies. “Imoba is a private company and it feels no need to answer the query,” said Jan Pavlu, from the communication section of Agrofert, a huge concern associating chemical, agcicultural and food-processing firm and media outlets that Babis also transferred to trust funds one year ago.
For seven years, Capi hnizdo also received subsidies per hectare and according to the number of animals reared that were mostly covered from EU funds. In total, it was paid 2.7 million crowns in this way. But only firms with at least one third of their profits coming from agriculture have been entitled to these subsidies since 2015, which is a condition Imoba does not meet, the paper writes.
In 2008, the Capi hnizdo farm won a 50-million-crown subsidy for small firms from the EU funds, but the Czech police and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) concluded that the farm has always actually been linked to the Agrofert group. One year ago, Babis transferred SynBiol and Agrofert shares to trust funds to meet requirements set by a new law on the conflict of interest.
Imoba was part of Agrofert in the past. It bought Capi hnizdo in 2013.