Prague, Czech Republic – A group of Czech activists cut a giant Pac-Man figure in a field to denounce the business dealings and economic clout of Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
Earlier this week, the local activist group Ztohoven cut a giant version of the iconic arcade-game figure Pac-Man in a rapeseed field owned by Agrofert, the giant conglomerate founded by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
Giant Pac-Man puts the spotlight on Agrofert and Czech PM’s business empire
“Pac-Man eats away individual components of the ecosystem in the landscape, leaving behind a monocultural toxic desert. Pac-Man destroys culture, individual freedom and the diversity of the business environment,” the Czech art provocateur group said in a statement, drawing a comparison between the business model and operations of large conglomerates like Agrofert and Pac-Man’s behaviour in the eponymous arcade and video game.
“Pac-Man has perfectly hacked the system of democracy and is constantly abusing it […] Pac-Man throws up critical thinking and serious science. Pac-Man can’t deal with individuals who refuse to share the playing field with him.”
The natural artwork was created on the 41st anniversary of the release of the original Pac-Man game, as well as on International Biodiversity Day. One of the best-selling and highest-grossing video game franchises in history, Pac-Man has sold nearly 50 million copies across all platforms since its release as an arcade game in 1980.
Local police said that the damages to the field near the village of Rovné were estimated at more than 350,000 Kc (around €13,500), and an investigation was launched on the grounds of damage to private property.
Confirming the land in the Usti nad Labem region was owned by the company, a spokesman for Agrofert said he would refrain “from commenting on the motives” of those responsible but argued that “it is astonishing how far some people are able to go”, adding that they “have clearly committed a crime”.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis accused of conflict of interest
The Ztohoven art provocateur group is known for its high-profile and controversial gimmicks attracting media attention, including the replacement, in 2015, of the presidential flag floating on top of Prague Castle by huge red shorts to denounce the actions of President Milos Zeman and his proximity with China.
Ever since he was elected into office, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has come under intense scrutiny, both at home and in Brussels, for his ties with Agrofert, the giant conglomerate he founded in the 1990s.
Although anti-graft legislation forced him to transfer his shares to a trust fund in 2017, a long-running EU audit found that the Prime Minister still retained de-facto control over the conglomerate and was therefore in a situation of conflict of interest. Among a string of grievances, critics accuse M. Babis of abusing his position to illegally draw EU funds to Agrofert-controlled businesses, and of using the numerous media outlets owned by the group to his own political advantage.
The Czech Premier, ranked by Forbes as the fourth richest man in the country (since the death of PPF owner Petr Kellner in March), has always denied any accusation of wrongdoing and dismissed the attacks as a witch-hunt orchestrated by his political opponents.