Thursday, 23 November 2017

Lawyer: Election winner Babiš's prosecution interrupted

ČTK |
23 October 2017

Prague, Oct 21 (CTK) - Lawyer Ales Gerloch told CTK on Saturday that the prosecution of re-elected Czech MPs for ANO, its chairman Andrej Babis and deputy head Jaroslav Faltynek, in case of an EU subsidy fraud would be interrupted following the announcement of the final election results by the State Electoral Commission.

He pointed out that their prosecution would not be halted, but only interrupted retroactively, and the police would not have to repeat the steps taken in the case if the prosecution continued later.

A deputy mandate is given through election but the State Electoral Commission must first officially announce the election results, which is to be done on Monday, Gerloch, a professor in constitutional law, said.

MPs cannot be prosecuted without a Chamber of Deputies' consent.

The lower house released Babis and Faltynek for prosecution in late September, but now a new lower house elected on October 20-21 must decide on this again. The police should send a new request for their release for prosecution to the Chamber of Deputies after the general election.

If the newly elected MPs met the police request, the prosecution would continue. If not, Babis and Faltynek can be prosecuted only after their mandates in the Chamber of Deputies expire.

The criminal prosecution may cause problems primarily to Babis, candidate for a new prime minister after his ANO won the election with almost 30 percent of the vote. Leaders of some parties of parliament announced they cannot join a government headed by a prosecuted PM.

However, President Milos Zeman said he would appoint Babis as PM regardless of his prosecution if ANO won the election.

Babis and Faltynek, who led the ANO lists of candidates in the Central Bohemia and Vysocina regions, are prosecuted on suspicion of an EU subsidy fraud in the Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest) case.

Until 2007, the Farma Capi hnizdo company belonged to Babis's Agrofert Holding. Afterwards, its stake was transferred to bearer shares for a small firm to reach a 50-million-crown EU subsidy, which a firm of the huge Agrofert Holding could never get. It observed this condition for a few years, but later it again returned to Babis's concern.

Billionaire businessman Babis transferred the Agrofert concern, including some media outlets, to trust funds in February to comply with an amended conflict of interest law.

Babis denies any wrongdoing, arguing that the scandal ws to harm his chances in the election to the Chamber of Deputies.

Besides, the new Chamber of Deputies will have to decide again on the release for prosecution of re-elected Bohuslav Svoboda (ODS), former Prague mayor, who was given suspended sentence for breach of trust in case of Opencard smart card for Praguers and appealed the verdict. The lower house will also debate the stripping of immunity of new deputy Martin Puta (STAN) who is prosecuted on suspicion of corruption.

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