At the end of last year, the Commission dealt with several suggestions which, according to Zdechovský, it received after the February mission of a group of MEPs in the Czech Republic. After a thorough examination of subsidies related to fruit orchards, it came to the conclusion that some large companies collected subsidies in the order of tens of millions of euros (hundreds of millions of crowns), which were intended for small and medium-sized companies. Another problematic scheme, according to the Commission, concerned crop and livestock insurance contributions, which were again acquired by large companies instead of small or medium-sized enterprises.
“The Commission’s evaluation revealed that this support had already been granted in the past to beneficiaries who had been mistakenly identified by the Czech authorities as small and medium-sized enterprises, even though they were in fact large companies,” the commission said.
The names of the companies concerned were not published by the EU executive. According to Zdechovský, however, in at least two cases these are companies connected with Agrofert.
“I have confirmed that the commission’s investigation concerns companies around Agrofert in at least two cases. I will ask the European Commission to provide the Committee on Budgetary Control at one of the forthcoming meetings of the Committee on Budgetary Control with details of the irregularities identified and the timetable in which it will deal with the Agrofert case several times, “said the MEP.
EU auditors have long been dealing with agrofert due to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s ties to his former company. Although Babiš invested the holding in trust funds, according to the findings of the European Commission’s auditors, it still has an influence on it and its conflict of interest therefore persists. The Commission should send a final version of the audit to the Czech Republic in January, on the basis of which it will probably not pay subsidies to companies around Agrofert from the summer of 2018, when the stricter EU rules on conflicts of interest entered into force. The Czechia could thus return up to around 450 million crowns to the EU budget. The prime minister has long rejected claims about his conflict of interest.
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