Fraud investigation into case involving Czech prime minister halted

Andrej Babiš, photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt

Chief Prague State Attorney Martin Erazim has halted a four-year-long investigation into suspected EU fraud by the country's prime minister, Andrej Babiš, and members of his family. Opposition politicians say they respect the decision but expect to see it thoroughly justified.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt

Andrej Babiš was suspected of having illegally acquired EU subsidies to the tune of 2 million euros by changing the status of his Stork’s Nest farm and conference centre.

The subsidies were intended to support small and medium-sized businesses, while the Stork’s Nest farm was originally part of Andrej Babiš’s multi-billion crown business empire Agrofert.

Chief State Attorney Martin Erazim justified the decision to halt the investigation by saying that at the time of receiving the subsidy the Stork’s Nest centre fulfilled the respective conditions to meet the grant.

He thus upheld an earlier decision by lower-instance State Attorney Jaroslav Šaroch who made a U-turn on the case and proposed halting the investigation two weeks ago.

The decision may still be reversed by the country’s Supreme State Attorney Pavel Zeman.

Opposition politicians have said they respect the decision of the Prague State Attorney’s Office to halt an investigation into the so-called Stork’s Nest Affair, but expect to see the decision thoroughly justified.

TOP 09 leader Jiří Pospíšil tweeted that while he respected the decision, the fact that the State Attorney’s Office had made a U-turn on the case, which only happens in 1 percent of all cases, will require a convincing justification and strong arguments.

The head of the Civic Democrats Petr Fiala said that he accepted the decision, but noted that the case had left a bitter aftertaste and divided Czech society.

The head of the Christian Democrats, Marek Výborný, said that while the decision might be acceptable from a legal perspective, it was not so from an ethical one.

The Pirate Party alone has said it is not convinced by the Chief State Attorney’s arguments and would like to see the case revised.