Prague, May 8 (CTK) – Another audio recording that allegedly shows Czech Finance Minister and ANO head Andrej Babis debating a release of information from police investigation with a journalist has appeared on the Internet, with the journalist saying that the info leak would harm ANO’s political rivals.
In reaction to it, Babis told CTK that he has become a victim of targeted provocation.
The journalist talking with Babis in the recording is Marek Pribil, a reporter of the Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) daily, who also features on a similar controversial recording that caused uproar on the Czech scene last week.
Both recordings date back some time ago when Babis probably still owned the Mafra publishing house that issues MfD and that is a part of the giant Agrofert holding, which Babis transferred to trustee funds in February in compliance with the conflict of interest law.
The latest recording shows a Pribil-Babis debate on certain information from a criminal file related to the Beretta case, the release of which would harm the government Social Democrats (CSSD) and the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS).
Pribil proposes in the audio that he will see to that the information is released in daily Pravo, i.e. not in Babis’s MfD.
Like the previous recording, and another in which Babis calls government members and journalists vulgar names, the new one, too, has appeared on the Julius Suman Twitter account.
On Friday, PM Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD) proposed President Milos Zeman to dismiss Babis, citing Babis’s dubious business deals and suspected influencing of media.
Late last week, Babis said he has filed a criminal complaint over the two recordings posted on the Internet. He said he believes that Interior Minister Milan Chovanec’s (CSSD) people are behind the attack on him.
The CSSD has dismissed having anything to do with the affair.
After the latest recording appeared today, Babis told CTK that he has “evidently become a victim of targeted provocation by an agent tasked to discredit me.”
He said the agent edited the recordings before releasing them, but still he, Babis, is very passive in them.
“All who would listen to it must notice how strongly he forces it upon me,” Babis said, speaking on the info leak in question.
Babis said some sources say Pribil, whom MfD fired last week, has contacts with “godfathers,” i.e. influential businesspeople linked to mainstream political parties.
“It is not ruled out either that my political opponents are involved in it. It is a campaign aimed to cover up corruption at the [CSSD-controlled] Education Ministry and eliminate me,” Babis said.
In the latest recording, it is Pribil who is speaks more of the two. He offers and hands over police documents to Babis.
“I have gained [documents from the] questioning of those involved,” Pribil says in the audio.
He hints at the content of the documents. He tells Babis that these are sensitive issues he has never discussed with “anyone from the newspaper” and says the release of the information would have consequences mainly for the CSSD and the ODS.
Pribil asks Babis whether he can publish the information.
Babis does not comment on the documents. He asks questions about individual people whom the Beretta case concerns.
Then he and Pribil discuss the timing of the info’s release.
“I would partly release it ahead of the CSSD congress, and another part before the elections,” Babis says in the recording.
Pribil reacts saying that the release is targeted [against ANO’s rivals], which is why he could “release it elsewhere” and manage for it “to be released, for example, by [daily] Pravo, where I worked for ten years.”
He says he has agreed on this by Frantisek Nachtigall, director of Mafra’s strategic development department.
In Pravo, he wants to agree on the info release with his “good friend” Jiri Bares, Pribil says in the recording.
At the close of it, he says the sources who provided the documents for him are police officers or former police who want to know whether Robert Slachta, former head of the police organised crime squad, might become a minister in future.
Babis, who defended Slachta during a controversial police shakeup last year, responds to Pribil that Slachta had told him that he would like to be police president.