Prague - Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) makes use of the media he owns to raise pressure on his government coalition partner, PM Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said today referring to information on the allegedly disadvantageous privatisation of the OKD mining firm.
Předseda vlády Bohuslav Sobotka (vpravo) a ministr financí Andrej Babiš na schůzi vlády 24. března v Praze. ČTK Vondrouš Roman
The information has been published recently by daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MFD), which Babis owns.
Sabina Slonkova, who became MfD editor-in-chief in January, has sharply dismissed the claim.
"It must be realised in which media the information appears. It is the media owned by Mr Babis, who is our coalition partner and with whom we are now locked in a dispute over health care funding and an extension of mining at Paskov mine. I think that this can only be interpreted so as that Mr Babis is making use of this instrument to raise pressure on his coalition partner," Sobotka said.
""This is an utter lie," Slonkova said, adding that the paper´s content is created in the editorial office and that Babis has nothing in common with it.
"We started to map the OKD case in January...also because Bohuslav Sobotka was heading for the prime minister´s post. Just as in other cases, we wanted to give the reader comprehensive information on who is becoming their prime minister, what property he has, what his weak points are," Slonkova said.
She said OKD is no old case because the police started questioning the accused in January.
The Thursday issue of daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) wrote that the European Commission (EC) started to look into the privatisation of the OKD coal mining firm on suspicion of a too low selling price by which the state gave the buyer, Karbon Invest, an unwaful aid.
At the time, the EC and later also the Finance Ministry that Sobotka headed then, had an expert opinion by the NOVOTA institute at their disposal.
NOVOTA evaluated the state stake at 10.3 billion crowns, which was about 2.5 times more than the selling price.
MfD wrote that in 2006 Sobotka had documents worked out for the EC by the buyer, Karbon Invest, which hired the law office Pokorny, Wagner & spol., in which Sobotka, a lawyer by training, worked before. Sobotka concedes he and the firm´s co-owner Radko Pokorny are friends.
Sobotka, however, insists on that the state sold its 45.88 percent stake for the market price.
"We will continue to defend the CSSD programme and Social Democracy will not let itself be influenced by these fanciful campaigns," Sobotka said.