The NSS rejected the ministry's complaint in the information dispute about the OLAF report

The NSS rejected the ministry's complaint in the information dispute about the OLAF report

NSS rejected the ministry's complaint in the information dispute about the OLAF report

Illustrative photo – Stork Nest Farm (pictured on May 20, 2017).

Brno – The Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) rejected the cassation appeal of the Ministry of Finance in the information dispute regarding access to the report of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the Čapí hnízdo subsidy case. requested the report under the Freedom of Information Act, the ministry initially provided only a small portion. The municipal court in Prague declared the office's procedure in 2021 illegal. The Ministry responded with a cassation complaint. Although the NSS corrected some of the conclusions of the municipal court, it left the judgment in force, ČTK found out from the official board. The full text of the report is already known.

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In the information dispute, the Ministry argued in particular that it is not possible to provide data that relate to criminal proceedings and could influence its outcome. However, according to the municipal court, the given exception to free access to information applies only to information related to the activities of law enforcement authorities, which OLAF is not from the point of view of the Czech criminal code.

“The fact that OLAF's findings can in some cases be the basis of criminal proceedings, or that criminal proceedings can be initiated on the basis of them, does not make it a law enforcement agency. In principle, any document can be the basis of criminal proceedings,” he confirmed now NSS. At the same time, he admitted that the office could have denied the applicant some parts of the final report. However, he would have to properly explain how the potential publication of specific passages threatens the ability of law enforcement agencies to carry out their tasks.

“However, in the matter currently under consideration, the obliged entity did not proceed in this way and, on the basis of rather general (flat-rate) conclusions, refused to provide basically the entire content of the requested document,” the NSS judgment states. The mandatory subject in this proceeding is the Ministry of Finance.

At the time when the Ministry was dealing with the association's request for the provision of a report, then Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) was facing charges in the Čapí hnízdo case. At that time, the ministry was managed by Alena Schillerová from ANO. The complainant claimed that the ministry did not provide the report precisely with Babiš's interests in mind. Now Babiš has been acquitted of all charges without jurisdiction.

OLAF has been investigating the granting of a European grant of 50 million crowns to Čapí hnízdo Farm since 2016. In December 2017, it closed the investigation, stating that there was suspicion of subsidy fraud. He sent the conclusions to the Ministry of Finance, which published only three paragraphs of the conclusions on January 4, 2018. A week later, the servers Aktuálně.cz and brought the complete wording of the report. So it got to the public, but in an unofficial way. The ministry later provided the report to Kverulant, allegedly waiting for confirmation from the public prosecutor's office that publication could no longer frustrate or jeopardize the investigation of the case.