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Prague asks for more time to respond to EU audit of PM Babiš

PRAGUE — The Czech government has asked the European Commission for more time to send its response to an audit of conflict of interest allegations against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, citing the coronavirus crisis.

Brussels has investigated accusations that Babiš’ continued ties to an agricultural conglomerate he founded, Agrofert, presents a conflict of interest while he negotiates the bloc’s budget with other EU leaders because the business has received millions in EU funds. Czech media have reported that the final report found the prime minister still has ties to his businesses while involved in decisions that could affect EU subsidies.

Babiš has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and described the affair as a political witch hunt.

The Commission sent the final report to the Czech government in December, and a Czech translation arrived in Prague in February, giving the government two months — or until early April — to reply. The Czech government now wants to postpone sending its response until June due to the spread of coronavirus, a spokesman for the Ministry for Regional Development told news outlet on Sunday.

If the Czech response does not satisfy the Commission, the government may be forced to return as much as €17.6 million in subsidies to the EU.

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