Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Imoba returns subsidies for Čapí hnízdo animal breeding

ČTK |
5 February 2018

Prague, Feb 3 (CTK) - The Czech Imoba company has returned the subsidies the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) farm, a part of Imoba, received from the state for animal breeding in recent years, Imoba spokesman Karel Hanzelka has told CTK in reaction to a newspaper article challenging the subsidy drawing as unrightful.

On Friday, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) wrote that Capi hnizdo keeps receiving subsidies for small and medium-sized businesses from the state, although it is part of the big concern SynBiol, which had a turnover of 3.4 billion crowns in 2016.

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.

Imoba meets the conditions, but SynBiol, of which it is a part, does not, HN wrote.

In recent months, Capi hnizdo has been mentioned in connection with a suspected fraudulent drawing of an EU subsidy in 2008, for which 11 people, including PM and ANO leader Andrej Babis and ANO deputy head Jaroslav Faltynek, face prosecution.

As for the Czech state subsidies, the Agriculture Ministry originally said the Capi hnizdo farm did not get any 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 wrote.

"We know about the administrative discrepancy. Last year, our internal check found administrative discrepancies in drawing the subsidies for goat, sheep and cow breeding. The subsidies worth 90,000 crowns were immediately returned to the provider body. We took measures for a similar situation not to repeat any more," Hanzelka said on behalf of Imoba.

Babis, who owned SynBiol in the past, refused to comment on the issue on Friday.

"I will not deal with it, as 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 in order to comply with a new conflict of interest law in his then capacity as finance minister.

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 HN that Imoba and the Capi hnizdo farm submitted subsidy applications in the previous years, including their statement that they meet the conditions.

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, HN wrote.

Imoba was part of Agrofert, a huge chemical and food holding that belonged to Babis, in the past. It bought Capi hnizdo in 2013.

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