Illustrative photo – Agrofert company headquarters in Prague on a picture taken on December 28, 2018.
Prague – The State Agricultural Intervention Fund (SZIF) has started to terminate 28 applications for subsidies from subsidiaries of Agrofert, so the companies will not receive more than half a billion crowns for their projects. After the European Commission sent the Czech Republic the conclusion of an audit into the conflict of interests of the then Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) in the field of agricultural subsidies last spring and issued a fine, it is clear that the European Union will not pay the money. Companies can appeal or defend themselves in court. The iROZHLAS.cz server wrote it today. Holding Agrofert is part of the Babiš trust funds.
“The package of 21 requests before the signing of the agreement, which we previously suspended, are now being terminated,” said the new director of SZIF Petr Dlouhý in an interview for iROZHLAS.cz. Another seven applications were suspended after signing an agreement before payment. “There, applicants receive a notification about the amount of the subsidy, when they are allocated a zero subsidy,” noted Dlouhý, who replaced Martin Šebestyán in the position.
The European Union was supposed to support the projects with about 200 million crowns, the rest was supposed to come from the state budget. The Agricultural Fund, which distributes national and EU subsidies to agriculture in the Czech Republic, could either take responsibility for the error or withdraw the promised financial support to companies from the Agrofert concern. He decided to go the other way, writes the server.
Subsidiary companies of Agrofert will be able to defend themselves in all cases of the decision. Where their representatives have not yet signed a contract with the fund, they will have the opportunity to appeal. “With them, the applicant will have the opportunity to turn to the review committee with an initiative. And our termination can be directly actionable before the relevant court,” described Dlouhý.
For the seven applications that were put on hold until after the signature, the Department of Agriculture could come into play. “Here is an opportunity to use the disputed procedure within the administrative code, where the governing body of the rural development program, i.e. the Ministry of Agriculture, would decide on the matter,” explained Dlouhý. Agrofert could also challenge these decisions in court.
Agrofert spokesman Pavel Heřmanský did not rule it out, he did not want to comment further on the cases. “We do not comment on the ongoing proceedings. We can only confirm that we are convinced that we acted in accordance with the law and the subsidy rules and are ready to defend our rights,” said a spokesperson for iROZHLAS.cz.
The mentioned 28 applications for subsidies the fund led by Šebestyán suspended as a precaution. The period when, according to the European Commission, Babiš was in a conflict of interest, in the end, only one paid subsidy falls. It is about 1.6 million crowns for the Schrom Farms poultry farm, which the fund started to recover from the agricultural company last September. The company appealed against this to the Ministry of Agriculture.