EUROPE
Czechs forward Babiš case to new EU prosecutor’s office

A Czech prosecutor said Thursday (3 June) that the case of the billionaire prime minister’s conflict of interest as an entrepreneur and politician has been forwarded to the new EU prosecutor’s office.

The independent, Luxembourg-based European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) was launched on 1 June to crack down on the fraudulent use of EU funds and other financial crimes.

“Concerning your query, report forms on two matters have been sent to the newly established EPPO,” Prague prosecutor Boris Havel told AFP without elaborating.

The European Commission said in an audit report in April that Andrej Babiš had a conflict of interest in his dual role as prime minister and the owner of the Agrofert food, chemicals and media holding.

Babiš, the Czech Republic’s fifth wealthiest person, has denied any wrongdoing.

He has insisted he transferred Agrofert to two trust funds in February 2017, when he was finance minister, under a Czech anti-corruption law dubbed “Lex Babiš”.

But publicly available documents show he is still Agrofert’s beneficial owner.

The European Commission concluded that Babiš exercised “a decisive influence over the trust funds”, urging “a 100-percent financial correction” for all grants awarded to Agrofert after February 2017.

Babiš is also facing a no-confidence motion in parliament later on Thursday, proposed by the opposition over his alleged conflict of interest and poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But he is likely to survive as the opposition needs 101 votes in the 200-seat parliament to topple the government — which it does not have after the Communists, who until recently backed Babiš’s cabinet, said they would not participate in the vote.

Even if Babiš loses the vote, nothing would change as President Miloš Zeman, Babiš’s ally, has made it clear he would let Babiš continue until a general election scheduled for 8-9 October.

Babiš leads a minority government of his centrist populist ANO (YES) movement and the leftwing Social Democrats.

A former Communist who was registered as a secret police collaborator in the 1980s, Babiš is also facing police charges over alleged EU subsidy fraud involving his farm.

In parliament on Thursday, he took a swipe at the EU, saying “no one from abroad will horn in on our affairs”.

“We don’t want the European Parliament, green fanatics, to manage our country,” Babiš said.

After topping opinion polls with 30% backing for years, Babiš’s ANO has recently lost favour over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Last weekend, ANO came third in a poll by the Kantar CZ agency with 19% support, trailing two opposition coalitions comprising the five parties that initiated the no-confidence vote.

Source: Euractiv.com

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