Monday, 23 October 2017

MPs vote to release Babiš for prosecution

ČTK |
7 September 2017

Prague, Sept 6 (CTK) - The Czech Chamber of Deputies released for prosecution ANO leader Andrej Babis and ANO deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltynek over a scandal with EU subsidies with its vote, preceded by a seven-hour, often stormy debate on Wednesday.

Babis's release for prosecution was backed by 123 out of the 134 deputies present and Faltynek's by 120 out of 133, while five voted against the motion.

The police want to prosecute Babis and Faltynek on suspicion of a subsidy fraud. Babis, a billionaire who was finance minister from January 2014 to May 2017, is also suspected of harming financial interests of the EU. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, calling the case politically motivated.

The deputies for ANO, a member of the three-party government, voted against the release for prosecution, except for Babis who voted for it and Faltynek who abstained from the vote.

Babis's release for prosecution was also opposed by two deputies for the populist Dawn and two unaffiliated.

Two Social Democrats (CSSD), one Communist (KSCM) and one deputy for TOP 09 abstained from the vote.

Food and media mogul Babis is the leader of the ANO movement, which is the favourite of the forthcoming elections.

Babis and Faltynek have been facing a criminal complaint over the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) farm and congress complex since the late 2015. In 2007-08, the Capi hnizdo firm was a part of Agrofert, a giant chemical, agricultural and food-processing concern, of which Babis is the sole owner, though his ownership is not direct anymore.

Afterwards, the firm's owner changed through a chain of transactions that made the new owner hard to identify. Then it gained a 50-million-crown EU subsidy designed for small firms, which it could never gain as part of Agrofert. A few years later, it rejoined Agrofert.

Faltynek is ANO first deputy chairman and a former top manager in Agrofert.

The European AntiFraud Office (OLAF) has also been looking into the Capi hnizdo subsidy. It could complete the investigation by the year's end.

So far, this Chamber of Deputies has decided on nine deputies when asked by the police to release them for prosecution. In one case, the verdict was against the proposal.

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