Monday, 19 August 2019

Týden: Finance Minister Babiš's firms pardoned taxes

6 October 2015

Prague, Oct 5 (CTK) - The worst rumours about a symbiosis of the Czech Finance Ministry and the Agrofert holding owned by the minister, Andrej Babis (ANO), seem to be proved by the fact that one fourth of the latest record-high tax pardons concern Agrofert, weekly Tyden writes in its issue out Monday.

Tyden writes that the ministry has remitted the payment of taxes worth 5.82 billion crowns in connection with the tax returns for last year. Agrofert did not have to pay 1.48 billion crowns, it writes.

In the previous 15 years, the Finance Ministry pardoned the payment of about 1.9 billion crowns to Agrofert in total. In 2013, Agrofert had to pay all its taxes, without any exemption, Tyden writes.

Babis's Agrofert agricultural, chemical, food-processing and media holding is one of the largest companies in the Czech Republic. The billionaire Babis founded the ANO movement in 2012. He scored a rather surprising success in the 2013 elections with his campaign promising to replace lazy corrupt career politicians with hard-working people.

The weekly quotes former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek (opposition TOP 09) as saying that Babis does not need to receive bribes of millions of crowns because he unlawfully gains billions from public budgets.

The tax general directorate is not allowed to comment on cases of individual tax payers, it spokeswoman Linda Paterova told Tyden.

Paterova only said the increased volume of taxes pardoned was connected with fines imposed on subsidy recipients. The pardons concerned firms that achieved the lowering of the originally set fines, she indicated.

Agrofert spokesman Karel Hanzelka told the weekly that Babis definitely is not helping his firms. He pointed out that the tax offices now checked Agrofert more often than when Babis was not minister yet.

Hanzelka offered a different explanation for the high tax pardons than Paterova, the weekly writes.

Hanzelka said the "tax shield" was connected with huge financial losses of the chemical plant Synthesia that Babis bought in 2000. "This is nothing new, but an issue old 15 years," he told Tyden.

During a lower house session in July, Kalousek said the Synthesia company paid nothing in taxes, but demanded three billion crowns for the removal of the environmental damage despite its huge profits, the weekly writes.

The opposition parties criticised Babis for being in an conflict of interest. They protested against the approval of a new programme of biofuel support, from which they said Agrofert profited a lot.

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