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Police, not minister, may be behind Babiš’ release request, Zeman says

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Prague, Aug 27 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman wants to believe that Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) is not behind the police request for parliament to release ANO movement leaders Andrej Babis and Jaroslav Faltynek for prosecution, he said in an interview with server.

He said it is Police President Tomas Tuhy’s subordinates who failed in this respect.

Tuhy reacted by asking Zeman to convey any concrete information he has about concrete police officers straight to him or the General Inspection of the Police Corps (GIBS).

Zeman previously said he considers the police request, timed two months before the general election, a provocation that arouses suspicion of police having been misused for political purposes.

Led by billionaire Babis, the government ANO is a clear favourite in the October 20-21 general election.

Zeman, who is an ally of Babis, according to their opponents as well as commentators, today dismissed the possibility of granting presidential pardon to Babis if the he were convicted.

Zeman said the person behind the timing of the request for the release of Babis and his close aide Faltynek for prosecution is probably a “lower-ranking police officer…a too obedient and zealous civil servant.”

Zeman mentioned some other cases in which the police acted wrongly, in his opinion, such as the Kubice report, the Budisov case and accusations levelled within the scandal of Jana Nagyova (now Necasova), head of former prime minister Petr Necas’s office and his current wife.

The Kubice report was a secret report completed by then police organised crime squad head Jan Kubice. The ruling CSSD accused the opposition of having the report leaked to the media in order to harm the CSSD before the mid-2006 elections.

In the Budisov case, former deputy minister Vera Jourova (then CSSD, now EU commissioner nominated by ANO) and other officials were accused of a subsidy fraud in 2006 but the accusation later turned out to be unrightful.

Nagyova has been charged with corruption, tax evasion and misuse of military intelligence for private purposes.

Zeman told that he has always been of the view that incompetent staffers must be replaced.

“I would say I strongly respect Police President Tomas Tuhy, so I believe that he is not to blame [for the controversial police request]. However, I am afraid that some of his subordinates failed to cope with their role,” Zeman said.

He said the mistake was made by those in charge of the investigation of Babis’ affairs, Zeman said.

Asked whether the interior minister is co-responsible, Zeman said he is but only indirectly.

“The interior minister cannot be accountable for every case, otherwise he would go mad,” Zeman said.

In a press release, Tuhy asked Zeman to submit concrete information about concrete police officers, if he has any.

“I appreciate it that the president has stood against the politicising of the police so far and I firmly believe that he will keep this approach in the future,” Tuhy wrote.

Babis and Faltynek have faced a criminal complaint over a suspected subsidy fraud linked to the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) farm and congress complex since the late 2015.

The police addressed their request for the release of the two for criminal prosecution earlier this month.

On the turn of 2007-2008, the Capi hnizdo firm was a part of Agrofert, Babis’s giant chemical, agricultural and food processing complex. Afterwards, its owner changed through a chain of transactions that made the new owner hard to identify. Then it gained a 50-million-crown subsidy designed for small firms, which it could never gain as part of Agrofert. After few years, it rejoined Agrofert.

Babis was Czech finance minister from January 2014 to May 2017.

($1=22.098 crowns)

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