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Czech police seek to prosecute prospective PM Babis

November 21, 2017

Police suspect the Czech Republic's billionaire prime minister in-waiting illegally tapped into €2 million in EU subsidies almost 10 years ago. Now, Andrej Babis, could see his immunity lifted by parliament.

Andrej Babis
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. D. Josek

Czech police on Tuesday requested that prospective Prime Minister Andrej Babis' immunity to be lifted by the lower house, the Prague district attorney's office revealed has revealed.

Babis, a billionaire farm products and media tycoon, stands accused of hiding ownership of his Stork's Nest farm and convention center almost a decade ago to illegally tap into some €2 million ($2.34 million) in European subsidies aimed at small businesses.

Read more: Opinion: Czech voters more than simply right-wingers

The Czech parliament had already voted back in September to allow Babis' prosecution. However, Babis won immunity again when his populist ANO party became the runaway winner in last month's parliamentary election, taking 78 out of 200 seats.

Most parties have indicated they would vote to lift his immunity once again, although it remains unclear if a majority of parliamentarians will vote that way.

Both Babis and ANO deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek, who is also implicated in the prosecution's graft investigation, have denied any wrongdoing, with the prospective prime minister dismissing the charges as politically motivated.

The European Anti-Fraud Office has said it is also investigating the case.

Czech Republic's coalition dilemma

Babis has been tasked by Czech President Milos Zeman to form a coalition government, but all eight other parties elected to the lower house have stated that they will not work with him if he faces criminal charges.

Instead, Babis is set of forming a minority government, even though he is far from assured of surviving a vote of confidence. Nevertheless, Babis has said he is no rush to form a government, adding that he has even already picked many of ministers.

Despite by snubbed by the more traditional parties, Babis' ANO swept to victory on an anti-corruption, anti-euro and anti-migrant ticket. Other anti-establishment parties, such as the Pirates, the far-right SPD and the far-left communists, have all signaled their openness to governing with the ANO, although Babis' fate remains a major caveat.

Euroskepticism in the Czech Republic

dm/rt (Reuters, dpa)

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