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EU dismisses Czech PM's audit criticism

June 5, 2019

Andrej Babis had told Czech lawmakers that an EU audit on subsidies to his private business was an attack on the Czech Republic. More than 100,000 people took to the streets on Tuesday calling on Babis to resign.

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis arrives at the European Council for the start of the two day EU summit on December 13, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium
Image: Getty Images/D. Kitwood

The European Commission on Wednesday rejected Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis's criticism of an EU report that concluded he had illegally received more than €17 million ($19 million) in EU subsidies.

The report, which was leaked to Czech media outlets last week, led to some 120,000 people protesting against the billionaire leader in Prague on Tuesday.

What you need to know:

  • The audit found that Agrofert, a company owned by Babis, should not have received €17.4 million in EU subsidies because of Babis' conflict of interest.
  • European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said EU auditors had worked professionally and objectively to produce the report, which was still a draft.
  • Earlier on Wednesday, Babis told reporters that he wanted to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss "how it is possible (that) he has such incompetent auditors because their behavior is scandalous."
  • Babis dismissed any wrongdoing, saying the report was "an attack on the Czech Republic."

Anger on the streets: Tuesday's anti-Babis demonstrations were the biggest in the country since the fall of communism in 1989. Organizers said some 120,000 people showed up. Police have not confirmed that number. On Wednesday, Babis criticized the rallies as "unacceptable."

Read more: Andrej Babis — The anti-migrant Czech premier and his migrant workers

Greens demand action: The Green party grouping in the European Parliament sent letters to Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk to start a probe in the Agrofert subsidies. The letter to Tusk also calls on him to make sure that Babis' "dirty business ... does not influence the decisions of the European Council."

Still calling the shots? Babis was required to transfer ownership of Agrofert to two trust funds in February 2017 to avoid any conflicts of interest. He and his wife are still listed as owners of an Agrofert subsidiary in neighboring Slovakia.

Who is Babis? He is the second-richest man in the Czech Republic and has been prime minister since shortly after his centrist, populist ANO party won parliamentary elections in 2017. Forbes magazine estimates his net wealth to be around $3.7 billion.

Czech Republic: The PM and fraud

amp/rt (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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