Czech PM Babis fights off Pandora Papers money laundering claims ahead of general election
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is fighting off revelations of huge overseas assets in the Pandora Papers while he prepares for Friday’s general election.
Documents reveal Babis used a web of offshore companies to purchase luxury properties in France in 2009 before he was premier.
The billionaire leader has had a turbulent term fighting off numerous scandals involving European Union subsidies.
Slovak-born Babis is accused of passing money through three separate firms to buy a €14-million chateau on the French Mediterranean coast.
Polling predicts Babis’ populist Ano (meaning “Yes”) party is projected to win around 25 per cent of the vote followed by the centre-right Spolu (“Together”) opposition coalition on about 21 per cent. His lead appears to be shrinking although his support among largely older voters has not been heavily shaken by previous corruption probes.
Five relatively centrist opposition parties have created two coalitions to unseat Babis, who is running an aggressive populist campaign, hailing his anti-migrant stance and inviting Hungary’s populist leader, Viktor Orban, to an election rally.
The two opposition coalitions support European Union and Nato membership and have pledged to rule together if they secure enough votes.
“How intensively Czech officials try to investigate the Pandora Papers will show to what extent the Czech state has been occupied by Babis and his people,” said the chief editor of an anti-Babis news site.
A Slovak newspaper said: “The scheme, as he used it, is one of the most popular among terrorists, drug and arms smugglers and corrupt politicians.”
Opposition Pirate party MEP Mikulas Peksa said: “The Pandora Papers show why Andrej Babis was never supportive of efforts to fight for transparency and against corruption and tax evasion.”
Babis, 67, told a television debate that the allegations were a conspiracy to remove him from power and refer to actions before he entered politics.
But one financial crime analyst said “no normal business dealing would look anything like this”, saying Babis’ payments resembled money laundering practices.
Babis did not declare his foreign companies to the Czech authorities and could face a fine for failing to mention the assets. He might be stripped of his properties by the French authorities and face an investigation in the US, where one of his “companies” was based.
The Czech National Organised Crime Centre says it will examine any evidence about Babis in the Pandora Papers.
Andrej Babis and his wife, Monika Babišová. Picture credit: Wikimedia