Friday, 15 December 2017

Police seek MPs Babiš, Faltýnek's release for prosecution

ČTK |
11 August 2017

Prague, Aug 10 (CTK) - The Czech police have asked the Chamber of Deputies to release government ANO chairman Andrej Babis and ANO deputy group head Jaroslav Faltynek for prosecution, Chamber chairman Jan Hamacek (Social Democrats, CSSD) tweeted today.

The media have reported that the ANo politicians are prosecuted on suspicion of the unauthorised drawing of an EU subsidy for the Capi hnizdo farm in central Bohemia.

Stepanka Zenklova, spokeswoman for the Prague State Attorney's Office, confirmed to CTK, that the police request applied to two MPs and was connected with the case of subsidies for Capi hnizdo (Stork's Nest).

Babis said the police request is an attempt by the political system to liquidate him.

"This is the last desperate attempt of the corrupt system to liquidate me and a long-planned operation aimed to criminalise me," Babis told daily Pravo.

"The timing is clear, it is an attempt to influence the elections," he said.

ANO's spokesman Vladimir Vorechovsky said Babis is now on a holiday in Italy.

When speaking about elections, he was hinting at the October 20-21 general election, of which ANO is a favourite.

Faltynek told the Seznam.sz server that he knew about the police request and would not resist the prosecution.

Zenklova did not comment on the names of the prosecuted MPs.

She added that no one had been accused in the case as yet.

"I have received a request for consent to prosecution of two MPs, A. Babis and J. Faltynek. The document also mentions the reason, but I am not authorised to comment on the content since members of the mandate and immunity committee must get acquainted with it first," Hamacek told CTK.

He also confirmed that the Chamber of Deputies should deal with the request at its next session starting on September 5.

The prosecution of an MP requires the consent of the parliamentary house of which they are members. If either the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate denies the consent, the prosecution is impossible throughout the duration of the mandate. The police can possibly accuse them after the mandate expires.

The moral code of the ANO movement says its members will not apply their deputy or senator's immunity in case of criminal prosecution and they will ask the relevant committee to immediately propose their release for prosecution. The sole exception is possible prosecution for political statements made on parliament soil.

The code also says a representative of the movement must resign from a post if charged with an intentional crime or a crime by negligence committed in connection with the exercise of a public office. In the past, the code wanted any ANO member to resign in case of any criminal proceedings being launched against them, but las March, ANO softened the conditions.

Former finance minister and deputy PM Babis, who was dismissed from the government on suspicion of tax evasions and influencing the media in May, has faced prosecution in the Capi hnizdo case since 2015.

Until 2007, the Farma Capi hnizdo company belonged to Babis's Agrofert Holding. Afterwards, its stake was transferred to bearer shares for a small firm to reach a 50-million-crown EU subsidy, which a firm of the huge Agrofert Holding could never get. It observed this condition for a few years, but later it again returned to Babis's concern.

Billionaire businessman Babis transferred the Agrofert concern, including some media outlets, to trust funds in February to comply with an amended conflict of interest law.

Babis said at a special lower house session initiated by the opposition that his adult children and a brother of his common-law wife (whom he married recently) owned the bearer shares of the farm in 2008-2010 when the firm gained the subsidy.

The deadline for the police to make a decision in the case has been extended several times. The supervising High State Attorney's Office in Prague has not found any greater mistake when investigating a possible subsidy fraud. The European AntiFraud Office (OLAF) has also been looking into the Capi hnizdo subsidy. It wants to make a decision by the year's end.

($1=22.301 crowns)

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