Ex-PM Babis Acquitted of Suspected EU Subsidy Fraud

Babis, a leading candidate in this weekend’s presidential election, described the whole case as a fabricated show trial. Photo credit: vlada.cz.

Prague, Jan 9 (CTK) – The Prague Municipal Court has this morning acquitted former Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) and his former aide Jana Nagyova of EU subsidy fraud in connection with the Capi Hnizdo firm, worth CZK 50 million.

Judge Jan Sott is now reading the verdict and then he will explain it. The verdict can still be appealed.

According to the indictment, between 2007 and 2008, Babis arranged for the Farma Capi hnizdo (Stork’s Nest) firm to split from his Agrofert group and become a joint stock company with bearer shares owned by his children and partner.

State attorney Jaroslav Saroch argued that Babis had done this to make Capi Hnizdo appear, fraudulently, as if it met the conditions for EU subsidies for small and medium-sized businesses. It was Nagyova who submitted the successful application for the subsidy.

Both defendants pleaded not guilty, and neither of them came to the courtroom today for the verdict.

A man from the public tried to disrupt the trial, shouting from the public benches that he had an objection. After he refused repeated calls by the judicial guards to calm down, the judge ordered the man to be removed, and the trial then continued without any problems.

Babis, who is one of the leading candidates in this weekend’s presidential election, described the whole case as a fabricated show trial.

In his closing speech on Friday, Babis said his son Andrej Babis Jr had been abused during the trial. Babis Jr was originally accused in the case, but his prosecution was later halted, and he became a witness. He testified that he did not know that his father had transferred shares in Farma Capi Hnizdo to him, or that his father had made him a stooge. As Babis Jr suffers from schizophrenia, his reliability as a witness was challenged, but a court expert concluded that his testimony seemed trustworthy.

Babis, Nagyova and their defence counsels said last week that no evidence had been presented showing that the defendants had done anything illegal.

Public prosecutor Jaroslav Saroch proposed that Babis and Nagyova receive a three-year suspended sentence with five-year probation. He also proposed to impose fines of CZK 10 million for Babis and CZK 500,000 for Nagyova.

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