Czech State Attorney Halts EU Funding Fraud Case against Prime Minister Babiš, Report Says
The EU funds fraud allegations concern a case from before Babis entered politics.
An investigation concerning fraud with EU funds against the Czech Republic’s billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has been stopped by a state attorney, according to a report.
The report about the halted investigation against Babiš appeared in Czech daily Denik N on Monday, based on two sources, as cited by Reuters.
Babiš is charged over a subsidy of EUR 2 million (USD 2.2 million) from EU development funds, allegedly secured illegally, and used for the construction of a conference center outside Prague. The alleged abuse of EU funds dates back a decade, before he entered politics.
Agrofert, the business conglomerate built by Babiš since the 1990s, returned the subsidy provided to the Stork’s Nest conference center after the EU’s auditing body, OLAF, found irregularities in the case.
In June, the Czech Republic’s minority coalition Cabinet led by controversial Prime Minister, billionaire Andrej Babiš, survived a no-confidence vote, his second in a year, which was called by the opposition after a preliminary European Commission audit found Babiš to be in conflict of interest in connection his business affairs, more specifically his former company, the Agrofert conglomerate.
Before that anti-government protests in Prague demanding Babiš’s resignation rallied some 250,000 people, the largest crowd in the country since the Velvet Revolution at the end of communism in 1989.
Babiš’s ANO 2011 party rules in a minority coalition with the center-left Social Democrats, which relies on support in parliament from the pro-Russian Communist party.
A spokesman for the state attorney’s office said the attorney, who had been overseeing the case of Babiš’s alleged abuse of EU funding for four years, had “submitted his final decision in the case, in which he changed his legal opinion”.
However, he declined to provide further details, except to say that “a senior state attorney will now revise the decision to determine whether the change is legal and justified”.
Babiš, who turned 65 on Monday, told Reuters in a text message that he would not comment because he did not know the substance of the decision.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said the investigation is politically motivated.
Babiš, his wife and two adult children were charged with fraud in 2017 for allegedly illegally manipulating the ownership of Agrofert to get the EU subsidy, which was intended for smaller businesses.
Babiš transferred ownership of Agrofert to two trust funds in 2017 to comply with a law on conflict of interest but according to the EC he has retained influence over it.
(Banner image: Andrej Babiš on Twitter)