Czech Politicians Strip Ex-PM Babiš of Immunity Over EU Fraud

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Lawmakers in the lower house of the Czech Parliament agreed Thursday to lift former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš immunity from prosecution in a fraud case involving European Union subsidies.

The approval allows prosecutors to decide whether Babis should be indicted for his alleged involvement in the $2-million fraud. Czech police have repeatedly recommended Babiš’ indictment.

It wasn’t immediately clear when prosecutors would complete their review of the case. Babiš denies any wrongdoing and has said the allegations against him were politically motivated.

“Even though the charges are purpose-built, I’m not opposing the move when it comes to facts,” said Babiš.

The allegations involve a farm that received EU subsidies after its ownership was transferred from the Babiš-owned Agrofert conglomerate of around 250 companies to Babiš’ family members. Later, Agrofert again took ownership of the farm.

The subsidies were meant for medium- and small-sized businesses and Agrofert wouldn’t have been eligible for them.

Lawmakers twice before lifted Babiš’ immunity from prosecution in the case. The prosecutors had to ask them to do it again following October’s parliamentary election.

“I can declare with clear conscience that I have never done anything unlawful,” the food, chemicals and media tycoon said, calling the case “absurd”.

Police request

Last May, prosecutors said they were contemplating charges against Babis after police had urged them to indict him over the alleged EU subsidy fraud.

Police already called for the then-prime minister to be indicted in 2019, but a prosecutor found the allegations to be unfounded and cleared Babiš.

The country’s top prosecutor then found flaws in the decision and reopened the case concerning Babiš and his aide Jana Mayerova later that year.

Babiš was removed from government in a general election last October, won by a centre-right coalition of five parties and led by current Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

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