Prime Minister Andrej Babiš embodies one of the most significant conflicts of interest in the modern political history of the Czech Republic. Due to his extensive influence on the state’s strategic areas, it is crucial to make his business interests and the companies within its scope (in the Czech Republic and abroad) as transparent as possible. The Impérium AB (Empire AB) project strives to achieve precisely this goal. It is the first comprehensive database of companies belonging to the worldwide realm of Andrej Babiš. The project also examines public budget subsidies won by these companies.
By Nina Kodhajová, investigace.cz
This article was originally published on investigace.cz
Andrej Babiš’s conflict of interests is manifold. He appoints ministers and public officials who control the subsidies, which often reach Babiš’s Czech companies. He participates in legislative proposals and amendments concerning his business activities. As prime minister, he represents the state abroad, negotiating and ratifying international agreements. These impact the foreign policy and thereby may reflect on the operations of his companies abroad.
As the ultimate beneficial owner and a person with decisive control over Agrofert, he also influences the news media belonging to this group: among others the national dailies MF Dnes or Lidové noviny, but also the Metro daily or the radio station Rádio Impuls or music TV channel Óčko. According to the “News and News Sites 2019” survey by Nielsen Admosphere, Babiš’s media weekly reach almost 70% of all Czech media consumers. This status quo invites criticism, however the actual extent to which Babiš abuses his media leverage to sway the public debate and opinion in favour of his political and business objectives remains yet to be analyzed.
The Impérium AB project is a one-stop-shop enabling a comprehensive insight into Babiš’s business activities. Much of the information contained in the database was likely already published, but it is scattered across hundreds of news articles. Pavla Holcová, director of investigace.cz said in an episode of the “Odposlech” podcast: “Our goal was to create a tool that will make the work easier for journalists and public figures. We also hope for the database to bring more data into the public debate about subsidies and conflicts of interest to replace unfounded beliefs.”
In a recent update, we added existing media mentions of the companies included in the database. We managed to track almost two thousand of these.
The database details the origin and structure of public subsidies amounting to almost 11 billion Czech crowns awarded to Babiš’s companies from 2007 to 2020. Most of these benefited his companies from the Czech Republic (9.5 billion crowns). Foreign public subsidies went to some of his companies abroad, including Slovak companies receiving 1.2 billion crowns or companies in Hungary and Germany.
The database works on the Wikipedia principle. It maps companies connected to Andrej Babiš in the Czech Republic and abroad, drawing on public information sources. It also lists individuals linked to Babiš’s empire.
The database is available at imperiumab.investigace.cz. It was developed during the Open Source Intelligence and Investigation seminar at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University, led by Pavla Holcová and Josef Šlerka, data expert and head of the New Media Studies at Charles University.
Data on subsidies from EU funds are drawn from public initiatives consolidating the European Union’s subsidy data and from published lists of subsidy recipients by individual funds administrators. The public initiatives sources include:
- Hlídač státu consolidates data on subsidies to Czech entities from EU agricultural funds and other ESIF funds.
- Farmsubsidy.org consolidates data on subsidies from the agricultural funds EAFRD and EAGF of all EU member states, currently contains information until 2013.
- Subsidystories.eu publishes consolidated data concerning some recipients of subsidies from ESIF funds, mostly those from 2007-2013, from all EU member states.
- Ekosystém.Slovensko.Digital processes, among other things, data from the ITMS2014+ system, i.e. data on subsidies to Slovak entities from ESIF funds from 2014-2020.
Imperium AB is a tool and aid for journalists and the public. We commit to update and expand the database regularly. Significant data updates will take place annually following the public filing of corporate annual reports. Access to the main database is free and open. An extended database includes the names of key personnel in companies. It can be accessed upon registration. Registered users whose activities comply with the basic ethical rules of journalistic work will be granted access. If interested in contributing to the database, please write an email to Nina Kodhajová (firstname.lastname@example.org).