Frustrated with the state of corruption in Czech politics, Andrej Babiš, one of the country’s richest entrepreneurs, last year founded the political movement ANO 2011, which plans to register as a party and put forward candidates in upcoming elections. In an exclusive interview with Czech Position, he speaks about cronyism in Prague City Hall under former mayor Pavel Bém (ODS) and the influence of lobbyists like Roman Janoušek and Marek Dalík and various “mafias” on the political landscape.
Q: What do you say to the publication of the wiretaps of conversations between Pavel Bém and Roman Janoušek?
Babiš: I don’t say anything, rather I feel like I’m in a madhouse. Everyone knows what Mr. Janoušek was doing with Mr. Bém. But when I spoke about out it openly in an interview with Hospodářské noviny (HN) in September last year, there was a terrible scandal because Babiš dared to speak the truth. Journalists attacked me for not having evidence while Mladá fronta dnes (MfD) wrote that I was talking “pub banter.”
Now the same MfD has the wiretaps which confirm my banter. Now everyone here is surprised by something that everyone knew about. By the way, I mentioned Janoušek [in a speech] at the Lucerna on November 23, 2010. In the name of all farmers and agriculture workers I called upon Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) to do something so he steals less in this country. Back then I cited HN which wrote that Janoušek had Kč 2 billion in bank accounts in Switzerland which will be missing from the state budget.
As well as Nečas, the then minister of agriculture [Ivan] Fuksa (ODS) was there as were television and journalists. Do you think any media published what I said then?
Q: President Václav Klaus has said something to the effect that the actual content of the wiretaps is secondary, but apparently that what is far more damaging for democracy is that the wiretaps were made at all ….
Babiš: I don’t even feel like commenting about this. My main motivation for giving that interview with HN that caused all the fuss about Babiš was the president’s comments about the pointlessness of the anticorruption initiatives. “What corruption is there here? I want hard data,” Klaus said then. Now he has hard data. But now that data “endangers democracy.” The president is making madmen out of us.
Q: According to the law, the [domestic Czech intelligence service] BIS reports its information to the prime minister and president. Do you think they knew about the wiretaps?
Babiš: The head of BIS won’t say although he told [the daily] Právo that he would be mad to keep such information for himself. Let’s not be naïve that Klaus and [former ODS prime minister Mirek] Topolánek didn’t know what Bém and Janoušek were doing in Prague. Everyone knew about it. During his time Topolánek made hints, but he didn’t initiate anything against Bém and Janoušek. Why? Because Bém and Janoušek were making money in Prague, while Topolánek’s close friend and associate [Marek] Dalík was on the make from the rest of the country. That’s how those lads had it divided up.
If today we hear that Mr. President says that Bém was the best mayor, and add to that the link between the Prague mafia with [the political party] Public Affairs (VV), and Mr. President’s favoritism towards its members, everyone can probably complete the picture for themselves.
Q: Then again, we can read that according to Topolánek, Janoušek is small fry compared to “godfathers” Babiš or [Pavel] Tykač.
Babiš: I’ve pretty much had enough of commenting about Mr. Topolánek and his statements. Topolánek is a typical example of someone who was not successful in business and thus entered politics to get rich. He bought the biggest corruptioneers with him, misters Dalík and [former transport in Topolánek’s government Aleš] Řebíček. He created a judicial mafia and formed the so-called Tuscany gang, which received public contracts worth tens of billions of crowns. During his term as prime minister, theft of state property reached unprecedented proportions. ‘Topolánek is a typical example of someone who was not successful in business and thus entered politics to get rich.’
Thanks to the Tuscany gang, he is again a “successful” businessman who fights to defend their interests. What can he accuse me of? Since its establishment the dealings and finances of Agrtofert [Babiš’ agro-chemical giant] have been transparent and are easily accessible. It’s all entered into the legal registers. It would be interesting to find out where Mr. Topolánek pays tax on his assets and how he gained them....
Q: What for you what has emerged from the Bém–Janoušek wiretaps being published?
Babiš: That everything I said has been confirmed, that there’s a mafia here, that there was the Dalík – Topolánek mafia, wiretaps of which probably no one will pass to MfD. And that there was also the Bém – Janoušek mafia. I simply pointed out that these people engaged in corrupt practices without any fear whatsoever, brutally, with unbelievable arrogance and on an unprecedentedly large scale. And what’s being done about it? Nothing. Some policeman has resigned. At the same time in Germany the president resigned “only” because of some suspect loan, and look at how Bém is conducting himself here in this country.