Czech PM at centre of new scandal over his son’s shocking revelations

Andrej Babiš, photo: ČTK/AP/Jean-Francois Badias

The investigation into the Stork’s Nest affair in which Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is suspected of EU subsidy fraud has taken a new twist. The prime minister’s son Babiš Jr., who lives in Switzerland, told investigative reporters he had been forcibly detained in Crimea by his father’s associates during the time of the investigation so that he would not be called as a witness. The news erupted like a bombshell on the Czech political scene with opposition parties threatening to call a vote of no-confidence in the government.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK/AP/Jean-Francois Badias
Footage of the prime minister’s 35-year-old son, Babiš Jr. speaking to journalists in Switzerland where he now lives, appeared on the Seznam news site late Monday. The investigative reporters on the case said they had spent a year tracking him down.

Babiš Jr. told them he was forcibly detained in Crimea by Petr Protopopov, the husband of psychiatrist Dita Protopopová who had treated him during an earlier stay in a Prague mental health institution. Babiš Jr. said he had been given the option of “taking an extended holdiday” in Crimea or being locked up in a mental home. He said he had later contacted the police with the information. Babiš Jr. also revealed that he had signed some papers, but had no idea what he was signing.

Neither Dita Protopopova who ran in the local elections on ANO’s ticket, nor her husband were willing to speak to Seznams’s reporters.

The news caused an uproar on the Czech political scene with the prime minister’s coalition partners demanding an explanation and opposition deputies calling for him to step down and threatening to call a vote of no-confidence in the Babiš government.

The prime minister, who is currently in Italy attending an international conference on the situation in Libya, reacted to the news on Facebook saying that his son was mentally ill and was being treated for his condition and his daughter suffered from a bipolar disorder so both had been exempted from the investigation on health grounds. He slammed Seznam’s reporters for “hounding his family” and said the report was a manipulated smear campaign against him. He said that the police had investigated the matter of his son’s stay in Crimea after his son had contacted them with claims of an abduction and had concluded the accusation was unjustified.

Meanwhile, the Supreme State Attorney’s Office has ordered a new investigation into the affair and the deputies’ clubs of parliamentary parties met for emergency consultations over the revelations.

Jiří Pospíšil,  photo: Filip Jandourek,  ČRo
The head of the opposition TOP 09 party Jiří Pospíšil said the prime minister’s explanation lacked credibility and called this affair “one of the worst scandals to hit the Czech Republic since 1989”.

“In the interest of protecting the good name of the Czech Republic and citizens’ trust in the rule of law, we are calling on the prime minister to resign. Should he fail to do so, we appeal to his coalition partners, the Social Democrats, for them to walk out of this government.”

The Social Democrats have said they will await the results of the investigation before coming to any decision, as have the Communists, who helped the coalition government win its vote of confidence in the lower house. Meanwhile, some opposition deputies have already said they will try to raise support for a vote of no-confidence in the Babiš administration.