Czech company that owns pig farm on Roma genocide site will appeal order to return subsidy due to EU anti-fraud investigation
Czech Radio reported on 5 October that the AGPI firm must return a subsidy of EUR 375 000 in Czech and EU funds which it applied for in order to reconstruct an egg factory in Vrcovice u Písku. The firm is primarily known to the general public as the operator of the pig farm standing on a site in Lety u Písku where Romani people fell victim to the Holocaust.
Vice-chair of the board Jan Čech told the Czech News Agency that the firm has done nothing wrong and had acquired the subsidy correctly. The spokesperson for the State Agricultural Intervention Fund (SZIF), Vladimíra Nováková, confirmed to Czech Radio that AGPI was involved in an investigation that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) concluded in the Czech Republic last year.
The SZIF began its own administrative proceedings to have the subsidy returned in 2015. That preceded OLAF recommending last year that the return of the money, which had already been disbursed, should be officially pursued.
Silvana Enculescu, a spokesperson for OLAF, said the completed investigation was about "egg production in South Bohemia". The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) has also confirmed that it wants the subsidy returned, as most of the support came from its budget.
A smaller portion of the subsidy was provided through the SZIF by the Czech Agriculture Ministry. The Czech and European authorities are convinced that when AGPI, a.s. transferred a 52 % share in its daughter company AGPI Vajax, s.r.o. to Jiří Leskovec and Petr Lacina, the move was a mere formality undertaken to qualify for the subsidy while actual control of the company has remained with AGPI.
Both men were less than 40 years of age at the time. AGPI Vajax had not engaged in any business activity since being formed in 1998.
The subsidy was intended for beginning and young farmers. Both AGPI and AGPI Vajax, however, continue to share the same address at the main AGPI facility in Vrcovice, and the AGPI mother company lists the egg factory as part of its portfolio of agricultural businesses on its website, Czech Radio reported.
According to Čech, AGPI has done nothing wrong and obtained the subsidy correctly. He did recall that the European Union had asked that the money be returned for the project once before.
"We appealed, though, and that decision was annulled. I am of the opinion that the situation will be similar now," he told the Czech News Agency.
Čech added that OLAF has based its recomendations on the same arguments the EU authorities reproached the project for in the past. "For that reason, I believe our appeal will end up the same way and we will not have to return any money," he said, adding that the entire project had been audited more than once by the SZIF, which found no errors.
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