The Czech government has published an extract of a report by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) about its investigation into Prime Minister Andrej Babiš for EU funds fraud. Only three paragraphs of the document, which is thought to be about 50 pages long, has been made public by the Department of Finance. The Ministry said that the document could not be released in its entirety because the Stork’s Nest case was still under police investigation. Eleven people have already been indicted in the case, including Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and ANO Vice-President Jaroslav Faltýnek.
Babiš stands accused of illegally benefiting from EU funds for the construction of a recreational complex dubbed the Stork’s Nest. The Guardian newspaper reports that when the centre applied for the funds its ownership structure was obscure, however since receiving the funding – which is intended only for small enterprises – it has become apparent that the complex is owned by Agrofert, a large conglomerate controlled by Babiš.
Babiš, the Czech Republic’s second richest man, often compared to US president Donald Trump for his brash manner and populist rhetoric, came to power as the leader of the ANO party on an anti-immigration and pro-business platform in October.
In its report, OLAF calls on the Czech government to withdraw the Stork’s Nest project from the EU programme thereby cutting off its European funding. The Department of Finance has said that that it will accept this recommendation, leaving the government to pay back the 50 million crowns (2 million euros) the centre received from Brussels.
Prime Minister Babiš denies the charges and has lodged a complaint against OLAF with the EU ombudsperson and the Court of Justice over OLAF’s handling of the case
Despite his defiance, Babiš has acknowledged that the scandal has severely damaged his government’s chances of winning a vote of confidence this week as other parties have refused to offer him their backing. However, even if Babiš’s ANO party lose the vote of confidence, the Czech President, Milos Zeman, has already indicated that he will allow Babiš another shot at forming a government.
Meanwhile, the Czech police have called on parliament to lift Babiš’s parliamentary immunity so that he can be prosecuted for fraud. This is due to be considered by the Chamber of Deputies next week.