Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

Czech opposition pushes for no-confidence vote over PM's investigation

PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech opposition parties on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Andrej Babis to resign and agreed to push for a no-confidence motion in his government after a news report that said his son had been send abroad to hinder a fraud investigation.

Babis, a billionaire with farming, chemicals and media businesses, has long battled police charges that he manipulated the ownership of one of his firms a decade ago so that it would qualify for 2 million euros in European Union development aid.

He has denied any wrongdoing in what has become known as the Stork Nest scandal.

Six opposition parties said the case could not be properly investigated while Babis was still prime minister.

“(We) call on Andrej Babis to resign as prime minister until the Stork Nest case is investigated. This is the only way to ensure fair investigation,” the parties said in a statement.

The opposition parties lack the 101 votes in the 200-seat parliament that are needed to dismiss the government.

Babis told parliament in March 2016 that the firm in question, a hotel and conference center outside Prague, was owned by his adult children and his partner’s brother at the time when the subsidy was approved. His two adult children and others have been charged in the case.

News website Seznam Zpravy tracked down Babis’s son Andrej in Switzerland where he lives with his mother, Babis’s ex-wife.

In what appeared to be a hidden camera interview on the doorstep of their apartment, Andrej Babis junior said he had been brought to Crimea so that he would not be called as a witness to the investigation.

He said that the person who brought him to Crimea was the husband of a psychiatrist who examined him and who had worked as an advisor for Babis senior in the past when he was finance minister.

Babis junior, who has received psychiatric treatment, said he did not believe him being moved to Crimea was his father’s idea.

“He (the man who took me there) took advantage of my father wanting me to disappear. Because of the Stork Nest affair,” Babis junior told the reporters, according to published footage.

Police had looked into the case and ruled that no crime had taken place, a police spokeswoman said.

Babis senior called the report a manipulation.

“To film a mentally ill man, secretly and in this way, that is heinous and revolting. This entire campaign is only aimed to put pressure on the investigators in the Stork Nest case, it is also used by the opposition,” Babis said in a statement from Sicily, where he was attending a conference on Libya.

The opposition parties lack the 101 votes in the 200-seat parliament that are needed to dismiss the prime minister.

The government includes Babis’s ANO party and the center-left Social Democrats. It also relies on votes from the Communist Party to have a majority in parliament.

The Social Democrats nor the Communists have indicated they would join the opposition in the vote.

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