Czech police submit fresh immunity request over alleged Babiš fraud

Andrej Babiš, Jaroslav Faltýnek, photo: CTK

Czech police have submitted a fresh request to the chamber of deputies for ANO leader Andrej Babiš and party deputy leader Jaroslav Faltýnek to be stripped of their parliamentary immunity so they can pursue a fraud case. During the previous session of parliament, the pair came under investigation for alleged corruption over securing an EU grant for a development project.

Andrej Babiš,  Jaroslav Faltýnek,  photo: CTK
The move was confirmed via a short announcement on Tuesday morning by Štepánka Zenklová, a spokesperson for the Prague Prosecutor’s Office:

“I can confirm that the Chamber of Deputies has acknowledged receipt of a request submitted by police investigators for two MPs to be stripped of their parliamentary immunity and to face charges related to the Stork’s Nest affair. We will not be giving more details on this matter at this time.”

Czech police initiated the process of prosecuting Andrej Babiš and Jaroslav Faltýnek back in August. The pair stand accused of fraud related to a 50 million crown subsidy for construction of the so-called Stork’s Nest recreation complex south of Prague near the village of Olbramovice. Babiš allegedly used family and business connections to mask ownership of the property in order to help secure a small business grant from the European Union for which his Agrofert company could not normally have qualified.

MPs vote on police requests stripping their members of parliamentary immunity, thus enabling police to pursue prosecutions. The validity of the previous vote, held in September of this year, expired with the swearing-in of newly elected MPs following October’s election. Since then, fierce manoeuvring has focused on the ANO party’s possible dominance of the newly constituted parliamentary immunity committee, which plays a key role in assessing police requests for MPs to face criminal prosecutions.

I asked political analyst Vladimíra Dvořáková for her assessment of what this fresh move might mean for Andrej Babiš’s prospects – as the winner of the recent parliamentary elections – to become Czech prime minister.

Stork’s Nest | Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
“It is a continuation of the previous decision. Because there were elections, and now there is a new mandate. So it was necessary to ask a new chamber to enable the investigation to continue. And when two MPs face such accusations, the request is logical.”

Do you think this in some way impedes the prospects of Mr. Babiš becoming prime minister?

“It isn’t an ideal situation to have a prime minister under investigation by the police. So we shall see whether Mr. Babiš will be appointed prime minister by the president – although it seems that the president will still do this.”