Former Czech Railways director says “there was interest” in MAFRA to receive biggest ad deals

The former head of Czech Railways Miroslav Kupec said that there “was interest” in the media publishing company MAFRA, owned by Agrofert, the business holding created by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, to be “most busy” when asked by Czech Radio why the country’s main rail transport provider issued advertising deals worth CZK 112 million in MAFRA’s publications in 2015.

Mr Kupec was the director of Czech Railways from September 2018 to June 2019. He said that he was informed “through multiple sources” that the advertising contracts should continue when he was in charge, but said he did his outmost to lower expenditure on advertising.

Czech Railways spent seven times more on advertising in MAFRA publications than in the country’s other similar sized media company the Czech News Centre, Blanka Hejlová from the Department of Marketing Communication and Public Relations at Charles University told Czech Radio’s iRozhlas.

Prime Minister Babiš is no longer in charge of Agrofert, having placed the company in trust funds to avoid accusations of a conflict of interest. However, a European Commission audit did state that there is an ongoing conflict of interest despite the move.