PRAGUE: Czech billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Saturday he would not resign if indicted for his alleged role in a two-million-euro EU subsidy fraud. Police this week recommended that Babis be indicted over the case which could see him and several others, including family members, spending five to ten years in prison. “I would not resign because I have been saying from the beginning that this is a political process,” Babis told the DNES broadsheet which he owns.
The 64-year-old agro-chemicals mogul pegged by Forbes as the second-wealthiest Czech is suspected of abusing EU funds to build the luxury Stork Nest resort and farm near Prague in 2007. He allegedly took the farm out of his sprawling Agrofert food, chemicals and media holding to make it eligible for a subsidy awarded to small companies before eventually putting it back.
Charged by police in 2017, Babis and several others – including his wife, brother-in-law and daughter – are suspected of subsidy fraud and harming the EU’s financial interests. “If I weren’t in politics, nobody would have heard about the Stork Nest,” Babis told DNES. ‘People keep plotting affairs against me, delving into the past. This affair is 12 years old,’ he said, calling charges against his family “incredible filth”.
President Milos Zeman, who could remove the embattled prime minister, said Thursday he would not do so. “An indicted prime minister is not a sentenced prime minister,” said the 74-year-old pro-Russian, pro-Chinese veteran leftwinger and a staunch Babis ally. The prime minister’s populist ANO movement leads a minority coalition government with leftwing Social Democrats.
It also has tacit backing from the Communists – a first in the post-Communist country’s history. Late last year, the government survived a confidence vote after media reported that Babis aides had taken his son Andrej Babis Jr. to Russian-occupied Crimea against the son’s wishes to hinder the fraud probe.
ANO currently has the highest backing by far of any Czech party, despite the Stork Nest affair and allegations that Babis was a Communist secret police agent in the 1980s. ANO was credited with 33 percent backing in a March-April poll by the Kantar CZ agency for Czech Television, ahead of the second-placed Pirates party with 19 percent.