EU accused of behaving like the ‘mafia’ after Czech Prime Minister asked to return £8.6m

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Czech PM Andrej Babis responded furiously to accusations by European Commission auditors that he had swindled millions of euros in EU funds. The Brussels audit said the billionaire leader breached conflict of interest rules over his control of trust funds linked to his Agrofert business empire. Auditors ruled that Mr Babis still controls the agrochemical giant, a company formerly owned by the Czech PM, and should return more than £8.6million (€10million) in EU subsidies.

In a furious riposte, Mr Babis accused eurocrats of carrying out a political attack on his leadership of the Czech Republic.

He fumed: “It is scandalous that some Brussels officer dares to interpret Czech law. It is unacceptable.

“The audit was manipulated and made on purpose.”

Mr Babis suggested that the Commission auditors could have been working in cahoots with his main opposition the Pirate Party, which leads the opinion polls ahead of October’s parliamentary elections.

“The audit brings nothing new,” he said.

“There are repeated lies of auditors’ mafia organised by informants from the Pirate Party.”

He has always maintained that he does not have any influence on the payment of EU subsidies.

Mr Babis was forced to put Agrofert into trust funds to comply with Czech law when he became PM.

But Brussels has challenged this repeatedly in a two-year battle with the Czech leader over EU subsidies.

“Mr Babis, therefore, controls the two trust funds and through these trust funds he also controls the Agrofert group,” the auditors wrote in the final report published on Friday.

“Based on this assessment, the Commission services consider that the Agrofert group, therefore, falls under the prohibition…of the Conflict of Interests Act.”

The auditors have said the Czech Republic should pay back around €11million in EU subsidies handed to Agrofert after February 2017.

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They wrote: “A 100 percent financial correction should be applied to all related expenditure already declared to the Commission for these operations and the related public contribution from the programmes should also be cancelled.”

The EU investigation sparked huge protests in 2019 against Mr Babis’ leadership, the largest since the end of communist rule some 30 years ago.

Ivan Bartos, chairman of the opposition Pirates Party, suggested the audit could have wider implications for the under fire Czech coalition government.

He said: “We will send letters to the Czech authorities to finally recover the money from Agrofert, which was wrongfully drawn.”

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But Mr Babis insists he will fight back against the Brussels report and will not repay the cash.

He said: “The Czech Republic will not return any money.

“The Czech state has to defend itself.”

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