Saturday, 24 August 2019

Babiš to consult lawyers if new bill is passed by Senate

15 September 2016

Prague, Sept 14 (CTK) - Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) will wait until the conflict of interest bill is assessed by the Senate and President Milos Zeman and then he will consult lawyers on how to react, he said after the bill that restricts ministers' business activities was passed by the lower house yesterday.
Babis refused being labelled an oligarch. He said he behaves transparently.
Babis said the bill is aimed directly against him, which was definitively confirmed by opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) chairman Petr Fiala yesterday.
"I do not understand why someone denies the fundamental right to own property," Babis said.
The mainstream political parties voted together once again, he added, commenting on the lower house vote in which the conflict of interest bill was supported by ANO's two government partners together with both the right- and left-wing opposition.
Only ANO, a relatively new entity that entered parliament in 2013 for the first time, and a few unaffiliated deputies voted against.
According to the bill, which would apply to future government members, ministers can further control business firms but such firms would not have access to public orders and non-mandatory subsidies. Ministers are also banned from owning media.
Babis, the second richest Czech, owns the giant chemical and food Agrofert Holding including the Impuls Radio and the Mafra publishing house that issues the national dailies Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) and Lidove noviny (LN).
Earlier yesterday, PM Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) welcomed the passage of the government-sponsored bill and said it forces oligarchs to choose between membership in the government on the one hand, and subsidies, public orders and media ownership on the other.
The CSSD dismissed that the law, known as Lex Babis, is aimed exclusively at him. The bill has a universal meaning, CSSD representatives said.
Babis rejected being labelled an oligarch.
"Oligarchy is an undemocratic regime. The [ANO] movement I founded was elected in a democratic election," he said.
Babis said he is the most watched person in the country.
"I think I have behaved transparently since the beginning of my mandate [as a minister]," he said.
He reproached ANO's coalition partners, the CSSD and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), for having known about his property while negotiating with him about forming a joint government in late 2013.
"They knew what I owned and that I had no reason to transfer the property to my relatives, like they did," Babis said.

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