Former PM cleared of fraud by Czech court

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A Prague court has acquitted former Prime Minister Andrej Babis of fraud charges in a €1.8m case involving European Union subsidies.

A prosecutor had requested a three-year suspended sentence and a fine of 10 million Czech koruna (€416,000) for the populist billionaire. The prosecution can still 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.

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

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

The 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.