AP

Czech ex-Premier Babis acquitted in EU funds fraud case

Jan 9, 2023, 1:16 AM | Updated: 7:41 am

Former Czech Republic's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Andrej Babis addresses media duri...

Former Czech Republic's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Andrej Babis addresses media during a press conference in Pruhonice, Czech Republic, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. On Monday Prague court acquitted former Prime Minister Andrej Babis of fraud charges in a $2 million case involving European Union subsidies. A prosecutor requested a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of 10 million Czech koruna ($440,000) for the populist billionaire. The prosecution still can appeal. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE (AP) — A Prague court on Monday acquitted former Prime Minister Andrej Babis of fraud charges in a $2 million case involving European Union subsidies.

A prosecutor requested a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of 10 million Czech koruna ($440,000) for the populist billionaire. The prosecution still can appeal.

Babis pleaded not guilty and repeatedly said the charges against him were politically motivated.

He wasn’t present at Prague’s Municipal Court on Monday. His former associate, Jana Nagyova, who signed the subsidy request, was also acquitted.

Judge Jan Sott said what they did “is not a crime.” At the same time, Sott dismissed the notion that Babis was persecuted because of his political activities.

“INNOCENT!” Babis tweeted after the verdict. “I’m really glad that we have an independent judiciary and the court confirmed what I kept saying from the beginning. That I am innocent and haven’t done anything illegal.”

“I’m glad that the court recognized the arguments of my defense,” he said later Monday.

The ruling is a boost for Babis just days before the first round of the Czech presidential election.

“I’m running to help the people,” Babis said.

Babis is considered a front-runner in the two-day election starting Friday, along with retired army Gen. Petr Pavel, former chairman of NATO’s military committee, and former university rector Danuse Nerudova.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala said it’s necessary to accept the verdict of an independent court.

“What’s crucial: The real political battles in democracies take place at elections, and not in court rooms,” Fiala tweeted and asked Czechs to go to the ballot box in the forthcoming election.

Both Pavel and Nerudova are backed by the current coalition government.

The Babis case involved a farm known as the Stork’s Nest, which received EU subsidies after its ownership was transferred from the Babis-owned Agrofert conglomerate of around 250 companies to Babis’ family members. Later, Agrofert again took ownership of the farm.

The subsidies were meant for medium- and small-sized businesses, and Agrofert wouldn’t have been eligible for them. Agrofert later returned the subsidy.

Lawmakers have had to lift Babis’ immunity from prosecution three times over the years in the case, which dates back to 2007.

Prague’s public prosecution office completed the review of the case in March and went ahead with Babis’ indictment. It was repeatedly recommended by police investigators.

Babis’ centrist ANO movement finished a surprise second in the 2013 parliamentary election with an anti-corruption message to become a junior partner in the government with Babis as finance minister. Four years later, he won the election and became premier.

Babis has become a divisive figure in Czech politics.

A quarter of a million people took to the streets — the biggest such demonstrations since the 1989 anti-Communist Velvet Revolution — twice in 2019 to demand that Babis step down over scandals, including the conflict of interest over EU subsidies involving his former business empire.

Babis’ movement lost the parliamentary election in October. A coalition of five parties formed a new government, and ANO ended up in opposition.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Several hundred students and pro-Palestinian supporters rally at the intersection of Grove and Coll...

Associated Press

Pro-Palestinian protests sweep US college campuses following mass arrests at Columbia

Columbia canceled in-person classes, dozens of protesters were arrested at New York University and Yale, and the gates to Harvard Yard were closed to the public Monday.

3 days ago

Ban on sleeping outdoors under consideration in Supreme Court...

Associated Press

With homelessness on the rise, the Supreme Court weighs bans on sleeping outdoors

The Supreme Court is wrestling with major questions about the growing issue of homelessness as it considers a ban on sleeping outdoors.

3 days ago

Arizona judge declares mistrial in case of rancher who shot migrant...

Associated Press

Arizona judge declares mistrial in the case of a rancher accused of fatally shooting a migrant

An Arizona judge declared a mistrial in the case of rancher accused of killing a Mexican man on his property near the U.S.-Mexico border.

3 days ago

Donald Trump appears in court for opening statements in his criminal trial for allegedly covering u...

Associated Press

Trump tried to ‘corrupt’ the 2016 election, prosecutor alleges as hush money trial gets underway

Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York over alleged hush money payments started with opening statements on Monday.

3 days ago

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows Iran's nuclear site in Isfahan, Iran, April 4, 2024...

Associated Press

Israel, Iran play down apparent Israeli strike. The muted responses could calm tensions — for now

Israel and Iran are both playing down an apparent Israeli airstrike near a major air base and nuclear site in central Iran.

6 days ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after lawmakers pushed a $95 bill...

Associated Press

Ukraine, Israel aid advances in rare House vote as Democrats help Republicans push it forward

The House pushed ahead Friday on a foreign aid package of $95 billion for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and other sources of humanitarian support.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Czech ex-Premier Babis acquitted in EU funds fraud case