Matt Atlas

Former Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš to face trial on fraud charges 

Andrej Babiš

Allegations involve a farm that received subsidies after its ownership was transferred to Babiš-owned Agrofert

Former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babi will stand trial after being indicted in a European Union subsidy fraud case.

The Czech parliament had earlier voted to remove Babi’s immunity, prompting the public prosecutor in Prague to charge the populist billionaire.

Babi is suspected of misusing €2 million in EU funds allocated for small and medium-sized businesses to fund one of his own businesses. Czech police have long demanded that Babi be charged.

The former Prime Minister has always disputed the charges, calling them “politically motivated” and “absurd. In the past or in politics, I’ve never done anything criminal,” Babis said. “I’ll prove it in court.”

The case has now been transferred to Prague’s Municipal Court, according to prosecutors. According to a statement, another defendant has been charged in the fraud case.

One of the suspects, according to a representative for the Prague prosecutor’s office, “committed the crime of subsidy fraud and harmed the financial interests of the European Union.” The other suspect was a co-conspirator.

The charges center on the Stork’s Nest farm, which was passed down to Babi’s family from a food industry empire he founded, which included roughly 250 enterprises. Later, after receiving EU subsidies, the farm was repurchased by the corporation Agrofert.

Last year, as part of the Pandora papers, the Guardian revealed the convoluted offshore structure that Babiš had used in 2009 to finance the purchase of a £13m mansion in the south of France.

The original source of those particular funds was unknown, however, as is why Babiš chose such a complicated structure to finance a purchase he could have made directly.

The arrangements did not offer Babiš any obvious tax benefit, experts said. One Czech tax expert said: “[It] looks like a complicated structure to hide ownership of the companies or property.”

Babiš’ ANO political movement lost the election. A coalition of five parties formed a new government, and ANO ended up in opposition.

Babi’s immunity from prosecution in the case, which dates back to 2007, has been lifted twice by Czech lawmakers. Babiš led the Czech government for just one term in office between 2017 and 2021, before losing last year’s parliamentary election.

The 67-year-old could still stand in the country’s next presidential elections, scheduled for January 2023.