Former Czech PM Babiš acquittal in EU subsidy fraud case overturned

Prague’s highest court overturned the acquittal of former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in the case of misuse of European Union subsidies, known as the Stork’s Nest case (Čapí hnízdo).

This was reported by the Czech judicial publication Ceska Justice.

According to the decision of the Supreme Court of Prague, Babiš’s acquittal by the Municipal Court of the Czech capital in January was overturned due to “insufficient and misused evidence.”

Eva Brazdilova, the head of the Prague High Court panel, explained that the judges had “fundamental reservations” about the approach of their lower court colleagues to the analysis and interpretation of evidence “since the investigating court completely ignored a whole range of evidence, considering only a very narrowly defined part of the events.”

The case returns to the Municipal Court, which must issue a new decision.

Stork’s Nest case: a 50 million EU grant to construct a conference center

The Stork’s Nest case concerns a 50 million euro grant from the European Union to construct a conference center in the central Czech Republic. The prosecutor’s office accused Babiš’s former advisor, Jana Nagyova, of subsidy fraud and damage to the EU’s financial interests and Babiš himself of aiding and abetting subsidy fraud.

Babiš was accused of illegally using an EU subsidy before he founded his ANO party in 2011 to build the Stork’s Nest conference center near Prague, concealing his project ownership. Babiš denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly dismissed the case against him as political.

The European Commission found him guilty of a conflict of interest because Agrofert, which employs more than 30,000 people, used development subsidies during his tenure in government.

In January, a Prague court acquitted Babiš and Nagyova in the case, but the prosecutor’s office utilised its right to appeal.

In January, Babiš ran for presidency in the Czech Republic but lost to Petr Pavel in the second round. The oligarch and former Prime Minister, who had been a dominating but divisive presence in Czech politics for a decade lost his chance to become president.

Babis’ communist past

The 63-year-old Babis is the son of a top communist official who represented Czechoslovakia at the Geneva General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt). He is thought to have joined the communist party in 1980, a decision that may have been motivated more by professional aspirations than political views.

Babis worked for the StB as an unofficial “trusty” before developing into a full-fledged agent, according to Radek Schovánek, an authority on security files from the communist era for the Czech defense ministry. Babis’ 12 remaining security files – others have been destroyed – clearly show that he joined deliberately, according to Schovánek.

During the initial Slovakian prosecution, Schovánek, a witness against Babis, stated that his actions may have been far more widespread than what is shown in the files, which were made public in the early 1990s.

Read more: Controversial ex-communist and billionaire runs for presidency in Czech Republic

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