Surprise bakery audits possibly connected to Babiš

Three unannounced inspections of large Slovak bakeries were recently reported.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: SME)

In June the Antitrust Office (PMÚ) conducted audits in several large bakeries in Slovakia, the Sme daily wrote on July 18. The Office has not released the details of the inspections, which may be part of an investigation of the influence of Czech businessman and politician Andrej Babiš, who is involved in the production and sale of bakery products in Slovakia.

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Babiš, a Czech finance minister and Slovak-born businessman, had bought bakeries in Bratislava and Žilina without the permission of authorities – bypassing the PMÚ in the process. The bakery division of Babiš’s Agrofert company has long been the largest producer of baked goods and sweet-breads in Slovakia, supplying retail chains like Tesco, Kaufland and Billa. Agrofert is responsible for about one-third of the industry’s €348 million in revenues, with around 600 firms in the sector.

History of involvement

In 2012, Bbaiš agreed to the purchase of the large central European United Bakeries group, through which it allegedly also attempted to gain control of the Prvá bratislavská pekárenská (First Bratislava Bakery) and the Žilina-based bakery Peza.

The PMÚ blocked the deal, but in 2014 Czech journalists reported that Agrofert had procured the Prvá bratislavská pekárenská behind the PMÚ’s back: the journalists wrote that Babiš’s lawyers founded a limited liability company called Majetky, which bought Prvá bratislavská pekárenská from United Bakeries. The company is also reported to have purchased Peza in this way.

The PMÚ is now investigating whether it was clear from the beginning that Babiš was the real buyer, which would mean that Babiš could face a fine of €9 million. Both the PMÚ and Babiš refused to answer Sme’s questions.

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