Czech ministry releases short conclusion of Stork’s Nest fraud report

Stork’s Nest, photo: CTK

The Czech Finance Ministry has released the short conclusion of a 50-page report by the European Anti-Fraud Office into the so-called Stork’s Nest affair. While members of the lower house of the parliament’s immunity committee will be given access to the full report, it still remains unavailable to the public.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: CTK
A week after the EU anti-fraud unit, OLAF, report was sent to the Czech authorities, the Ministry of Finance finally released a short summary of its conclusions. It calls for the near 50 million crowns of European funding for the recreation and hotel complex connected with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to be withdrawn.

Babiš, along with his fellow ANO party deputy boss, Jaroslav Faltýnek, and nine others face criminal proceedings over suspected fraud. Police have launched criminal proceedings but the lower house must lift the immunity of Babiš and Faltýnek for them to proceed against them. The two deny any wrongdoing.

In an interview for Czech Television on Thursday, Finance Minister Alena Schillerová for the first time admitted that OLAF’s report had found discrepancies in the financing of the Stork’s Nest complex:

“The EU anti-fraud office recommends withdrawing the Storks’ Nest project from European funding and their conclusions are pretty clear. They must have seen some irregularities if they made this recommendation to the European Commission.”

While members of the lower house of parliament’s immunity committee will be given access to the full fraud report on Friday, it will still not be made public in spite of an increasing clamour for it to be released in full.

Alena Schillerová,  photo: CTK
According to Alena Schillerová, the ministry cannot release the full version of the report because it might threaten the ongoing criminal inquiry into financing of the Stork’s Nest project.

The ministry’s decision to keep OLAF’s report away from the public has raised criticism from many of the opposition politicians, including Senate leader Milan Štěch of the Social Democratic Party.

Others, such leader of the TOP09 party Jiří Pospíšil, say the short conclusion itself provides enough evidence for Andrej Babiš to step down as Prime Minister:

“This is the first official proof that the Stork’s Nest project is officially not OK. The recommendation to withdraw the whole amount from the EU programme shows that the discrepancies must have been quite substantial.”

Apart from the Stork’s Nest project, the Ministry of Finance called for the exclusion of another dubious 43 Czech projects investigated by OLAF from EU subsidies.

Stork’s Nest,  photo: CTK
Ministry spokesman Michal Žurovec said this in fact means that the projects in question will be regarded as nationally subsidised and their financing will be covered from the taxpayer’s pockets.

Meanwhile, president Miloš Zeman doesn’t seem to have drawn any conclusions from OLAF’s report. Speaking on private television Barrandov on Thursday, he said that in case the government didn’t win the confidence vote, he was ready to choose Babiš as designated prime minister again.