Tuesday, 21 May 2019

FinMin releases conclusion of OLAF report on Stork's Nest

ČTK |
5 January 2018

Prague, Jan 4 (CTK) - The Czech Finance Ministry on Thursday released on its website a short conclusion of the 50-page report by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) case of a possible EU subsidy fraud of which Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) is suspected.

The OLAF report says the relevant body of the European Commission has taken "all appropriate measures to ensure the exclusion" of 42.5 million crowns from given Czech regional operational programme due to "the irregularities detected in" the Capi hnizdo project.

The committee in charge of the Regional Operational Programme (ROP) Central Bohemia may deal with the deletion of the Capi hnizdo centre from EU subsidised projects around January 15, its head, Central Bohemia Governor Jaroslava Pokorna Jermanova (ANO) told CTK.

Senate head Milan Stech (Social Democrats, CSSD) criticised the ministry for not publishing the whole report. "I am seriously concerned about an effort to make the whole thing unclear, postpone the solution and avoid possible criminal consequences through legal tricks," he said.

Stech was one of the lawmakers who demanded that the OLAF report be given to them.

Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) deputy chairman Marian Jurecka also considers the publishing of the conclusion insufficient. "The ministry only increases the suspicion that something is amiss in the project," he said.

The ministry released the conclusions of the OLAF report in reaction to people's calls for it to do so on the basis of the law on free access to information. It refused to release the whole report because it says it might threaten the ongoing Czech criminal enquiry into the financing of the construction of the Stork Nest countryside conference centre which was owned by Babis who transferred it to trust funds last year in order to comply with a new law on conflict of interest.

The ministry said the report can be released based on a new request when the reasons for its release are not valid any longer.

The ministry Thursday called for the deletion of 44 Czech projects investigated by the OLAF, including Capi hnizdo, from EU subsidised programmes.

The ministry's spokesman Michal Zurovec said this in fact means that these projects in question would be regarded as nationally subsidised projects. This means that the subsidy for Capi hnizdo would be covered by Czech taxpayers.

"The release of the complete OLAF report was not possible as the report includes information gathered in the ongoing criminal proceedings because the course of the proceedings might be threatened," Zurovec told CTK.

He said the ministry believes that the release of the report's conclusion fully meets the requests for information on the case.

Zurovec said the ministry received about 40 requests for releasing the OLAF report. The ministry has never released any parts of the previous OLAF reports on the checking of other projects, he said.

Babis is facing criminal prosecution over a suspected subsidy fraud. Czech parliament released him for prosecution last year, but Babis defended his parliamentary seat in October and the Czech police had to ask for stripping of his MP's immunity again. The lower house has not decided on their request yet.

Next week, one day before his minority cabinet will ask for the lower house's support, Babis is to be questioned by the house's mandate and immunity committee about the Capi hnizdo case.

The mandate and immunity committee members will have access to the OLAF report as of Friday, but they do not have the right to make the report public, TOP 09 MP Miroslav Kalousek said on Twitter.

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