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BREAKING NEWS: Czech owner of pig farm on Roma genocide site approves its handover to the state

4.12.2017 15:02
The pig farm at Lety u Písku, Czech Republic (2017). (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)
The pig farm at Lety u Písku, Czech Republic (2017). (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

Shareholders in the AGPI company, which owns the pig farm at Lety, have approved the handover of the grounds to the state at their general meeting today. The money from the state, CZK 450 800 000 [EUR 17 616 642], should be received by the firm by the end of April 2018.

The farm is located on the site of a former WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people. Jan Válek, the legal representative for a minority shareholder of the firm, told the Czech News Agency that he will file a lawsuit against today's resolution within 30 days.

At the general meeting in in Vrcovice (Písek district) 92.4 % of the shareholders were in attendance. Of those present, 89.16 % were in favor of approving the handover and 10.84 % were opposed.

Notary Lenka Lojdová witnessed the meeting. According to Jan Čech of AGPI, the convening of the general meeting was requested by Agropodnik Tábor, which is itself one of the shareholders.

The Czech Government concluded an agreement with AGPI in November and will pay the company CZK 450 800 000 [EUR 17 616 642] for the buildings and grounds. It is estimated to cost  another CZK 120 million [EUR 4 689 753] to clean up the grounds and adapt them to their future use, including the building of a remembrance site.

After paying tax, the firm will retain about CZK 372 million [EUR 14 459 977], Čech said today. "The board decided that this offer is of great interest to the company and it would be very difficult not to accept it. The board was very satisfied. We should get the money at the end of April," he told the shareholders today.

The firm believes the value of the company will not decline as a result of the sale, quite the contrary. Válek, who represents minority shareholder Petr Vrba, told the Czech News Agency that within 30 days he will probably file a lawsuit against the general meeting's resolution.

One such lawsuit has already been filed by him against the firm's general meeting in July. According to Válek, the board of the AGPI firm is not communicating information transparently to its shareholders.

The purchase price includes compensation for lost profits and a motivational component for the firm, Čech said. AGPI is considering investing some of the money into expanding production capacity and some into paying off loans.

"Over 20 years we have reduced our operating loans by CZK 55 million [EUR 2,149,321]," Čech said. Lety, according to him, comprises 2.29 % of the company's assets.

The Czech Government approved the purchase in August 2017 and declassified the contract in October. According to the general meeting resolution, the contract will take effect on 15 February 2018 and will mature until 31 October 2018.

The buyer is the Museum of Romani Culture. The pig farm has begun to wind down production and the animals are gradually being sent to slaughterhouses.

"The last animal should leave the grounds at the end of February, we have a month to hand it over after that. Once we hand it over, we should receive the financing after 30 days," Čech said.

The grounds of the pig farm at Lety were built during communism beginning in 1972 - today it has 13 feed halls with about 13 000 pigs total, and the firm is gradually reducing its operations. The facility covers 7.1 hectares.

Buying out the pig farm and building a dignified remembrance site on the territory of the camp has been discussed for more than two decades. "There have been periods where there were lots of audits here and they were bothering us ... Three different auditors assembled at once and threatened to fine us for not giving them our attention. It was almost like a provocation, the vast majority of the investigations were based on reports by informers," Čech said.

The camp at Lety was opened in August 1940 by the Protectorate authorities as a disciplinary labor camp in South Bohemia. A similar facility existed at Hodonín u Kunštátu in Moravia.

In January 1942 both camps were changed into internment camps, and in August both places became "Gypsy camps". From then until May 1943, according to official numbers, a total of 1 308 Romani people passed through the Lety camp, 327 of whom perished there and more than 500 of whom ended up at Auschwitz.

Some activists allege that even more people died at Lety than that. According to Nazi estimates, 90 % of the Czech Roma were murdered before the war ended.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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