Czech prime minister could be ousted over kidnapping scandal

MARTIN DIVISEK

Andrej Babis, Slovak-born billionaire, Czech Prime Minister and leader of ANO movement, Prague Castle , 02 April 2017

Czech prime minister could be ousted over kidnapping scandal


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Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is facing a no-confidence vote after a scandal broke following accusations by his son who said his father had him kidnapped in order to keep him from testifying against him.

His son, who is also named Andrej, claims he was kidnapped and sent to Russian-occupied Crimea in January when his father was under investigation for embezzling billions of EU agricultural subsidies. Allegations of corruption against the elder Babis have also been the subject of an ongoing Olaf investigation as he is accused of manipulating the ownership of one of his agro-firms in order to qualify for EU subsidies.

The younger Babis said that one of his father’s drivers at his father’s company, whom he identified as Russian national, Petr Protopopov, and his psychiatrist wife, Dita Protopopova, forced him to travel to Sevastopol and Yalta in Crimea after being told he had to choose between a “vacation” and a mental institution.

He claims that he was held on the Russian-occupied peninsula for months until he was able to escape and leave for Slovakia, then Switzerland by bus.

Babis has denied his son’s claims, saying the 35-year–old suffers from mental illness and that he “left the Czech Republic of his own will”.

The elder Babis is the second-richest man in his country after amassing a $4 billion fortune and has historically close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has frequently backed a warmer relationship between the Czech Republic and Moscow and has been sharply critical of the European Union as well as its sanctions against Russia for the latter’s actions in Ukraine.

Prior to becoming prime minister in late 2017, Babis faced several criminal charges ranging from tax fraud to collusion with the former Czechoslovakia’s Communist officials.

Babis has gained a reputation for being “the Czech Donald Trump” for his “drain the swamp, Czech-style” rhetoric and his dislike for the country’s pro-EU political establishment.

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