Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is facing fraud charges after the European Union’s anti-fraud office, Olaf, found irregularities in subsidy payments to Agrofert, a company linked to Babiš, reported the Guardian. Agrofert, a conglomerate that deals with industries such as agriculture, construction, and energy, owns the Stork’s Nest, the farm and hotel complex under scrutiny.
Prime Minister Babiš came into power in October of 2017 when his centrist party, Action of Dissatisfied Citizens, became the largest party in the parliamentary elections. His popular eurosceptic and anti- immigrant platform, in which he vowed to “resist EU refugee quotes” and bring “a businessman’s approach to politics” has not been enough to win over the smaller parties in the Czech parliament, according to the Guardian.
The scandal concerned a payment of over USD $2.4 million to the Stork’s Nest which, at the time, had requested from the EU “a subsidy intended for small businesses… [in]poorer regions.” The owners of the complex were unknown at the time of the request, but Agrofert now owns it. Babiš vehemently opposed all of the accusations and maintained his innocence, claiming that such statements were fabricated by political opponents to drive him from power.
Most other Czech parties view Babiš with suspicion due to the allegations of corruption swirling around the Stork’s Nest, according to BBC. As a result, they declined to enter into a coalition with Babiš upon his reelection last year. On January 16, the members of the parliament voted 117-78 against him. Furthermore, Alena Schillerová, the Czech finance minister, announced that the Stork’s Nest would not be eligible for future EU subsidies, according to the Guardian.
However, Schillerová came under fire for only publishing three sentences of a 50-page report on Stork’s Nest. Tomáš Zdechovskŷ, a center-right Member of the European Parliament, criticized her decision to release such little information, arguing, “It was unacceptable [that]the report had not been published in full…. It is a scandal [and]it is in the public interest to know what is the result of the investigation of Olaf.” He went on to advocate for further investigations by MEPs, adding that “one of the pillars of the EU is transparency in financial matters.”
Yet, Czech President Miloš Zeman, who recently won his reelection bid and shares Babiš’ anti- immigrant sentiments, gave Babiš a second chance by reappointing him as prime minister, according to BBC. It remains to be seen if Babiš can form a government with majority support.