President echoes Babiš call for other leaders to have finances audited

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK

Andrej Babiš has pledged to have his tax records audited after questions were raised over how he financed a major deal. The ANO chief says other politicians should also undergo such a probe – a call that has been backed by the president. But do audits give a complete picture of an individual’s finances in any case?

Andrej Babiš, photo: CTK
In the latest skirmish among the main coalition parties, the Social Democrat prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, warned the billionaire ANO chief Andrej Babiš that questions over his finances could undermine the government.

This follows media reports that the amount Mr. Babiš spent purchasing bonds in his company Agrofert a few years ago was considerably less than his declared income at the time.

For his part, Mr. Babiš says the allegations are politically motivated and insists he has legitimate explanations for how he raised the extra funds.

What’s more the ANO boss has pledged to have his complete tax returns dating back to 1993 audited by not one but two major auditing firms. And he has called for other senior politicians to undergo the same examination.

Now President Miloš Zeman, speaking on Czech Television, has come out with a similar call.

“I would very much wish that the incomes of some, as yet unnamed, politicians be audited with the same thoroughness as the revenues of Andrej Babiš… I said ‘as yet unnamed’, but they are of course politicians who may have become rich through various privatisation contracts and through different rather strange transactions that took place in past years.”

This last point may be a dig at Mr. Sobotka, a political rival of the president who critics say approved the sell-off of mining company OKD at a price below its real value.

Miloš Zeman, photo: Filip Jandourek
But even if Mr. Babiš fulfills his promise to commission the audits, could such a move clear up all questions surrounding his finances? Jiří Žežulka is a tax expert with consultants APOGEO.

“It will depend a lot on the assignment that the client gives to the auditors, because their answer will stem from the assignment they have received. The auditors will have to come to terms with the amount of information that they receive from the client. But auditors don’t have any investigative powers. That means they don’t have the powers to demand more than the client gives them.”

In the meantime, Andrej Babiš says he is preparing to comply with a conflict of interest law commonly dubbed Lex Babiš. At the same time he is fighting the legislation in the Czech and European courts.