Agrofert accused the Ministry of Industry and Minister Sickle of bias. 100 million recovered after Penam

Agrofert’s management submitted an objection to bias to the Ministry of Industry and Trade and to the Minister himself, Joseph Sekila (for STAN). His office wants to withdraw a $100m subsidy for better toast from the trust funds of former Prime Minister Andre Babis (ANO). Officials’ hands are now tied by the objections. “Every operation we start against Agrofert is countered by the ministry’s objection to bias,” explained Marianne Pesha, deputy director of European funds.


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Two weeks ago, in an open letter to Prime Minister Petar Vial (ODS), the leadership of Agrofert’s board of directors complained about “unreasonable attacks” on the company by ministers.

“Ensuring equal opportunities for business and stopping harassment.” Agrofert complains to Viala about his ministers

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“Therefore, we repeatedly ask you to ensure equal conditions for doing business in the Czech market and equal access for representatives of political power to individual market participants, including the interest of Agrofert,” reads the letter, which you can read more about over here. The Presidency of the Concern should have sent a letter of similar content directly to the Government Office already in March of this year.

But anxiety management went further, as the server discovered.

On March 21, the Ministry of Industry and Trade led by Joseph Sikila (on behalf of STAN) filed an objection to bias. “We have lodged an objection and have been waiting for a response for several months. So we don’t know what stage we are at,” Pavel Heymansky, a spokesperson for the concern, told Four months later, on Monday, July 11, another objection came. on bias.And she was targeting the minister’s person directly.

Enforcement of subsidies

The Ministry of Industry distributes billions of European funds through the Operational Program for Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Competitiveness. In the past, European government money also flowed through it to Agrofert subsidiaries. But the European Commission’s scrutiny of conflicts of interest for the head of the ANO movement, Andre Babis, changed everything.

Support and review

At the beginning of 2019, a conflict of interest audit was conducted in the Czech Republic, due to former Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) and subsidies to Agrofert, which he stored in trusts. Brussels auditors came to the conclusion that Babis violated Czech and EU conflict of interest legislation during his governmental engagement. Then they identified a number of subsidies to Agrofert subsidiaries as being paid without permission, and according to them, the Czechs should recover them.

One of them is a $100 million subsidy for the construction of a new production line for toast, which the Zelená louka bakery, affiliated with Binam, ordered six years ago. In the description of the project, the bakery said that it would be a line “with important innovative elements”, thanks to which it was supposed to produce healthy and tasty bread without preservatives. But the inspectors found that the bakery actually used existing technology. A similar toast was produced by the German company Lieken AG, which is also a member of the Agrofert group, already in 2013. And so the Czech authorities began the so-called subsidy withdrawal procedure last fall.

EU auditors came to the conclusion that the former prime minister violated Czech and EU legislation on conflicts of interest, and that the subsidies he raised concern during his government involvement were paid without permission.

Therefore, officials of the Ministry of Industry must intervene to implement it. They have started a so-called benefit withdrawal procedure if there is a known amount of support 100 million for Penam .’s Zelená louka bakery. At the same time, according to Brussels, they should take a similar step with other forms of support – for example with this one For Fatera Plastic Company or syria farm.

But department officials now have their hands tied precisely because of their objection to bias. “Every operation we initiate against Agrofert is countered by the ministry’s bias interception,” Marianne Pesha, Vice European Funds, explained to

Neither he nor the ministry’s press department wanted to say what stage the subsidy application had reached at the present time. “Projects are in the process of administrative action, until completion of proceedings it is not possible to comment on individual cases in more detail due to the potential impact of the process,” said David Hlustick of the Press Only Service.

Nor did he want to explain the impact of objection bias on the entire enforcement process. According to two independent sources from the server, Agrofert’s complaints now prevent the enforcement of subsidies.

It is not clear when the whole process can be unblocked. According to the law, the bias objection must be dealt with “immediately,” but the legislation does not specify a more specific date.

Complaints on Síkel

What exactly bothers Agrofert? “We are convinced that this government does not deal with the concern of Agrofert and its individual companies in the same way as it does with other Czech companies, and what particularly sad and surprising us is that some members of the government expect even the decisions of the governing bodies that they These matters are interfering with them.

He was referring to Josef Sekila, head of the industry department. And at the beginning of this year, he stepped in to get back $100 million in subsidies for Binam. Although responsible for the formalities They actually started last fall, shortly after the parliamentary electionsThey didn’t have basic evidence on hand. Specifically, the opinions of European reviewers, according to which the toast line was not innovative and therefore had no right to support.

“The opinions, which are fundamental to the decision on the legality of the support for Zelená louka bakery, were provided by the Commission in response to my letter. The documents have convinced us that it is appropriate to withdraw support for this project,” he described his role in obtaining Sickle’s views in a press release in March and then also on Twitter.

It has been clear since 2020 that the European Commission will not pay $100 million to support the PENAM toast line, and the previous government “didn’t know how to deal with it”.

The European Commission has now approved my January request for subsidies and MPO_tweetuje will proceed to withdraw it. …

07:15 – 21 March 2022



Until then, Sickle’s words had not been liked by Anxiety Management. “However, we are very surprised that the Ministry of Industry and Trade on its website and the Minister of Industry and Trade on the social network, although incomplete, are anticipating their results,” Agrovirto Humansky, a spokesperson for, commented on the minister’s comments at the time.

The presidency also mentioned Sequela in an open letter to Vial. “Action. Josef Sequela, even before the withdrawal of support proceedings made with Pekárna Zelená louka ended, declared that it was appropriate to proceed with the withdrawal of support for this project,” based on the documents in the letter and described the administrative file, which should have the officials Just have access to it.”

bias intercept

The bias objection is part of administrative law and is a tool by which either party to the proceedings (For example, just an action to withdraw support, noted Ed.) to defend against the potential bias of officials who administer or participate in the proceedings.

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“The objection to bias will be decided without delay by a higher body called the president. Who is the president in a particular case follows from the statutory regulations, or from the internal regulations of the administrative body. Attorney Kristina Zahalkova of the Frank Bold expert group explained to that in the case of a high-ranking official At the level in the ministry, it is likely to be the head of the relevant department or another organizational component.

Then the president decides whether the official in question is truly biased and is removed from the proceedings. Instead, they will appoint another official to handle the procedures. “This official should not be subordinate to the dismissed official,” Zahalkova noted, adding that this decision can still be appealed.

In the event that the entire ministry is under attack opposing bias, the whole solution is much more complicated. If the objection of bias is directed against all employees of the Ministry, the Minister shall decide on it. He added, “If such an exceptional situation arises, the minister who heads the ministry decides to object to the bias. Hana Mala, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Interior, who is responsible for the law in question, explained that the minister, by law, is the head of the ministry.”

Bias as a blocking tool?

In the past, methodological bias has complicated and impeded the preparation of a number of important buildings in the republic. For example, the completion of D1 in the íkovice – Přerov section, due to the systematic bias of Přerov. Or completing the Prague Ring Road from the D1 towards Běchovice, where there were complaints about the capital’s bias.

“But systemic bias is not a problem only if there is no opposition to construction. Where there is resistance, Radek Mattel, Director of the Directorate of Roads and Highways commented about a year ago, where there is resistance, it is already a systematic tool for delays and complications in preparing for construction.

In the case of the ministry, it will be Sekila who decides, but Agrofert has criticized him in recent weeks for his statements and the fact that, according to her, he has access to an administrative file that only officials have access to.

However, according to the 2013 decision of the Supreme Administrative Court, in the case of an attack on the bias of the entire office, a decision must first be made about the bias towards the person at its head. He explained that if the objection to bias is directed against all employees of the ministry, the objection to bias against the minister must first be adjudicated.

This is where the whole thing gets complicated. The bias objection may not be used against the Minister himself. “The law expressly regulates the exception that provisions on prejudice do not apply to ministers,” Malla explained.

Zahalkova added that the only thing left was to file lawsuits and go to court. It added that “in order for the objection of bias to apply to the entire ministry or rather against the minister, an administrative case against the decision issued is required.”

Teresa Simosova

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