A court in Prague on Monday acquitted billionaire and former Czech prime minister Andrej Babis in a case involving fraud involving European Union subsidies. This happened four days before the presidential elections, for which Babis is a candidate.
Babis was accused of diverting 2 million euros to construct a leisure and conference centre in the vicinity of the capital Prague. To do this, he removed his farm from his holding company Agrofert so that he could receive subsidies intended for SMEs. “The action described in the bill of indictment is not a crime,” judge Jan Sott said after pronouncing the verdict.
Andrej Babis, 68, served as Prime Minister of the Czech Republic from 2017 to 2021. He denied any wrongdoing and spoke of a “political process” in the run-up to the presidential elections that start on Friday. Babis was prosecuted along with his former assistant Jana Nagyova, who was also acquitted. Neither was present in court on Monday morning.
Babis, the founder of the populist centre party ANO, is one of the top favourites to succeed President Milos Zeman, alongside former NATO general Petr Pavel and economist Danuse Nerudova. According to a television channel CNN Prima News poll, he would receive 27.9 percent of the vote, compared to 26.7 percent for Pavel and 24.4 percent for Nerudova.
However, none of the candidates would achieve an absolute majority, requiring a second round.