Prague, Sept 18 (CTK) – The halting of prosecution of PM Andrej Babiš and others in the Čapí Hnízdo suspected EU subsidy fraud case has come into force as none of the parties involved filed a complaint against the Municipal State Attorney Office’s (MSZ) decision, its spokesman Ales Cimbala told CTK today.
Justifying the decision, the state attorneys say the Farma Čapí Hnízdo company met the criteria of a small or medium-sized company and was rightfully assessed as eligible for the 50-million-crown EU subsidy it gained in 2008.
“We do not register any complaint filed by an authorised person against the resolution on halting the criminal prosecution. Consequently, we can state that the decision came into legal force on September 17, 2019,” Cimbala said.
The organisers of demonstrations against Babiš and for judiciary independence from the Million Moments for Democracy NGO demand that the state attorney’s office release the complete ruling on halting the PM’s prosecution, association chairman Mikulas Minar said in a video recording today.
The NGO insists on its demand that Babiš end as the head of government.
Babiš refused to answer the question whether he could release the attorneys’ document himself to dissipate doubts. “I will not comment,” he told reporters during his visit to the Usti Region, north Bohemia, today.
The June anti-Babiš demonstration staged by Million Moments for Democracy in Prague’s Letna area was attended by some 250,000 people, according to the organisers, and has been the largest public rally since the 1989 Velvet Revolution that toppled the Communist regime.
The organisers plan another demonstration in Letna on November 16, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the 1989 events.
The MSZ will now submit its verdict on halting the prosecution along with the respective files to Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman. He can either confirm or cancel the MSZ’s decision. He will have three months to decide.
The Prague High State Attorney’s Office, as a supervisory body, is examining the reasons for halting Babiš’s prosecution. If it concludes it was at variance with law, it will send its stance to the Supreme State Attorney’s Office.
The MSZ released its decision to halt the prosecution of Babiš and other suspects in the Čapí Hnízdo case last Friday.
MSZ chief attorney Martin Erazim said the Čapí Hnízdo case meant a complex legal question of the way to interpret the term “small and medium-sized company”, which is a category of firms eligible for the 50-million-crown EU subsidy that Farma Čapí Hnízdo obtained in mid-2008.
The police launched prosecution of Babiš and others in the case in late 2017. This April, they proposed that the state attorney file criminal charges.
The Farma Čapí Hnízdo company, at that time under the name ZZN Agro Pelhrimov, was originally a part of Agrofert. In December 2007, Čapí Hnízdo became a joint stock company with bearer shares. In the summer of 2008, it received a 50-million-crown subsidy within a programme for small and medium-sized businesses it would have never reached as part of Agrofert. After a couple of years of observing the subsidy conditions, Čapí Hnízdo returned to Agrofert.
Babiš owned Agrofert until February 2017 when he, in his then capacity as finance minister, placed it in trust funds in order to comply with the Czech conflict of interest law.
At present, Čapí Hnízdo is owned by Imoba, a company belonging to SynBiol, another giant group formerly owned by Babiš and now in trust funds. Imoba returned the subsidy to the Czech state last autumn.
Erazim is of the view that the link between Farma Čapí Hnízdo and Agrofert played no role as the two companies neither competed with each other nor did they unify their activities in a joint market.
Babiš has for a long time dismissed any wrongdoing connected with Čapí Hnízdo, a conference and recreation centre south of Prague.
Apart from him, the police prosecuted his wife Monika, his adult daughter from the first marriage, Adriana Bobekova, brother-in-law Martin Herodes and two former members of Farma Čapí Hnízdo, Jana Mayerova and Josef Nenadal.
The halting of the prosecution does not apply to the last suspect, Babiš’s son from his first marriage, Andrej Babiš Jr, since his case has been handled in separate proceedings.