Billionaire Czech Premier Faces Ouster Bid After Son’s Abduction Claim
(Bloomberg) -- The Czech Republic’s billionaire prime minister will face an ouster motion over a fraud investigation that took a new twist when his son claimed he’d been abducted to Crimea as his father tried to hide him from the probe.
Opposition parties called for a no-confidence vote against Premier Andrej Babis’s cabinet after the Seznam.cz website showed a video of his son saying people working for his father had lured him to Crimea and held him there against his will. Andrej Babis Jr. is a central figure in an investigation into the alleged misuse of European Union funds at a recreation center that once belonged to Babis, who rejects the case as a fabrication by his rivals.
The fraud probe continues to haunt the chemicals, agriculture and media magnate, who’s a polarizing figure in the EU’s eastern wing and has clashed with the bloc over migration and efforts toward further integration. While the opposition parties lack the majority to oust him, the motion will be the strongest test yet of Babis’s minority ruling coalition.
“We are calling on all lawmakers of the ruling parties who care about the principles of the rule of law, to no longer support a person who is accused of subsidy fraud and suspected of thwarting an investigation,” Petr Fiala, the leader of the leading opposition party, the Civic Democrats, told reporters on Tuesday. He said parliament may hold an extraordinary session next week.
Babis, by far the most popular politician in the former communist country, said Tuesday his son wasn’t abducted and that police had already concluded no crime had been committed. He said that his son, who lives in Switzerland with his mother, is being treated for mental illness. Andrej Babis Jr., an adult son from the prime minister’s first marriage, was in the Black Sea peninsula seized by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, but is now back in Switzerland.
On the video, taped by a hidden camera, Babis Jr. said that an associate of his father “took advantage of the fact that my father wanted me to disappear” because of the investigation.
The second-richest Czech, who rejects comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump in Czech media for his wealth, confrontational governing style and anti-immigration stance, called the latest developments “egregious pressure” on law enforcement authorities and a “witch hunt on my family.”
“It’s part of the scenario to destroy me and drive me out of politics,” Babis said in remarks broadcast live by the public television.
The Social Democratic Party, Babis’s coalition partner, said it expects Babis to answer questions about the case, stopping short of drawing political implications for the government. Police said they will look into the veracity of the video, including questioning the reporters.
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