Monday, 25 March 2019

EC anti-fraud unit checks EU grant for Babiš's farm

ČTK |
3 March 2016

Prague, March 2 (CTK) - The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has launched official investigation into the circumstances under which Agrofert, a firm of Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis, gained EU subsidies worth 50 million crowns for the project of a luxurious "Stork's Nest" farm, server Neovlivni.cz has reported.

Agrofert, a giant food and chemical holding, is suspected of having gained the EU money unrightfully. The Czech state may be forced to return the subsidy, the server wrote.

Agrofert, as well as Babis, who heads the government ANO movement, have repeatedly dismissed any unrightful drawing of money.

The OLAF announced on Wednesday that it has launched investigation concerning Agrofert, after a preliminary analyse of the case. It did not identify the project under suspicion, but Neovlivni.cz found out in Brussels that it is the Stork's Nest.

The Stork's Nest farm gained the 50-million subsidy within the European support for small and medium-sized companies several years ago.

The Stork's Nest is actually a luxurious resort 50 kilometres south of Prague.

Originally, it was a part of Babis's Agrofert Holding. However, before applying for the EU subsidy in 2008, its shares were changed to the bearer shares mode, because Agrofert, a giant holding, did not meet the subsidy criteria.

After five years, for which the Stork's Nest was bound to meet the subsidy criteria, it rejoined Agrofert, Neovlivni.cz wrote.

The OLAF did not say how long the investigation would last. In 2014, the average length of investigation into a case was 21 months, it said and added that the length has been markedly cut since.

Since January, the Stork's Nest project has been investigated by the Czech police, which received a comprehensive criminal complaint about a suspected subsidy fraud from an anonymous citizen.

The police assessed the complaint as serious, but they have not yet decided to level accusations against anyone.

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