A Czech prosecutor has suspended a four-year investigation into corruption charges against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, saying he has changed his mind about the case, but giving no further details, reports Czech news website Denník N.
Babiš had been accused by the EU’s Anti-fraud office of embezzling about 2 million euros from community funds into his privately owned conference centre.
A spokesman for the Czech Public Ministry has said that prosecutor Jaroslav Šaroch “has sent his final decision, in which he has changed his mind.”
It will now be up to senior prosecutor Pavel Zeman to determine if Šaroch’s decision “is legal and justified.”
Mr. Babiš, 63, a billionaire and second richest man in the Czech Republic according to Forbes magazine, stands accused of fraud concerning the construction of a hotel complex and conference center called the “Stork’s Nest”, located some 60 km south of Prague.
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has alleged that Babiš intentionally separated the “Stork’s Nest” from rest of the Agrofert conglomerate that he controls in order to benefit from two million euros of European funds intended in principle for small and medium-sized companies.
In its report, OLAF called on the Czech government to withdraw the Stork’s Nest project from the EU programme thereby cutting off its European funding. The Czech Department of Finance said that that it will accept this recommendation, leaving the government to pay back the 2 million euros the centre received from Brussels.
Since then, the prime minister has faced significant domestic challenges, including large-scale protests against his government and being stripped of parliamentary immunity to facilitate the investigation.
However, this did not stop him winning a significant victory in the October 2017 election.
In June, protests demanding his resignation attracted thousands of people, and were said to be the largest since the fall of communism in 1989.