World Bulletin / News Desk
The Czech parliament on Friday stripped billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis of immunity as a lawmaker, allowing the police to investigate his alleged role in EU subsidy fraud from 2007.
Police have charged Babis with fraud, alleging the 63-year-old Slovak-born chemicals, food and media tycoon pulled his Stork Nest farm out of his sprawling Agrofert holding to make it eligible for an EU small-company subsidy before eventually putting it back in the holding.
Babis told parliament on Friday that the request was politically motivated and labelled the Stork Nest case "a purpose-built pseudo-cause", insisting the police had "no direct or indirect evidence that I committed a crime."
Babis is struggling to form a government after his minority cabinet comprising ANO members and unaffiliated experts lost a parliamentary confidence vote on Tuesday and subsequently resigned, which will take effect on January 24.
But Czech President Milos Zeman has said he will give Babis a second chance to form a new cabinet. If needed, a third and final try to form a government falls to the parliament speaker, who is currently a member of Babis's ANO movement.
Campaigning on an anti-corruption, anti-euro ticket, Babis's ANO (YES) scored a landslide win in October's general election, but Babis could not put together a majority cabinet after partners turned their backs over the fraud charges.
Babis has already started talks on parliamentary backing for his second cabinet, or even a coalition.
Yet the Czech Republic's future government is also hanging on the outcome of a presidential run-off election on January 26-27.
The pro-Russian Zeman is seeking re-election after clinching pole position in round one last weekend, setting up a final round against pro-European Jiri Drahos, a former academic, who has said a prime minister facing police charges was a problem for him.
Babis told the DNES daily, which his company owns, on Thursday he wanted his second cabinet named by Zeman, whose term of office expires on March 8.
"It's hard to tell when, maybe before the end of February," Babis said.
Babis added that if Drahos wins the vote, he might refuse to name him as premier which could result in "destabilisation and a crisis,".Last Mod: 19 Ocak 2018, 17:41