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Andrej Babiš: Czech parliament lifts immunity of former prime minister over fraud

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Andrej Babiš served as the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic from 2017 to 2021.
Andrej Babiš served as the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic from 2017 to 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh, File

Czech MPs have agreed to lift the immunity of former prime minister Andrej Babiš in a fraud case.

The populist billionaire is accused of fraudulently using €2 million in European Union subsidies to fund one of his own businesses.

Prosecutors allege that Babiš temporarily separated his Stork's Nest farm from his large Agrofert group in 2007 to make it eligible for EU funds. Czech police have long recommended that Babiš should be charged.

The former PM has denied the allegations and says the claims are "politically motivated" and "absurd".

"I can declare in good conscience that I have never done anything illegal," he said before the parliament meeting.

But lawmakers in the lower house of the Czech Parliament agreed on Thursday to lift his immunity from prosecution, but it is not clear when prosecutors will complete their review of the case and if Babiš will be indicted.

The Stork's Nest farm was transferred to Babiš' family from a food industry conglomerate he owned, made up of around 250 companies.

Later, the conglomerate Agrofert again took ownership of the farm, after it had received EU subsidies intended only for medium- and small-sized businesses.

Lawmakers have twice before lifted Babiš’ immunity from prosecution in the case, but prosecutors had requested another vote after the populist lost last year's parliamentary election.

A total of 111 MPs -- out of 176 present in the 200-seat lower house -- voted in favour of lifting his immunity from prosecution for a third time.

Babiš led the Czech government for just one term in office between 2017 and 2021. The 67-year-old could still stand in the country's next presidential elections, scheduled for January 2023.