Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis attends a parliament session in Prague, Czech Republic, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. Lawmakers in the lower house of Parliament have agreed to lift the immunity from prosecution for billionaire Andrej Babis over an alleged fraud involving EU subsidies. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Czech lawmakers lift immunity for PM Babis over fraud claims
Karel Janicek (Associated Press) - January 20, 2018 - 2:23am

PRAGUE — Czech lawmakers agreed yesterday to lift the immunity from prosecution for Prime Minister Andrej Babis over alleged fraud involving European Union subsidies.

The 111-69 vote in the lower house of parliament allows police to complete their investigation into Babis' possible involvement in the $2 million fraud.

The case involves a farm that received an EU subsidy after its ownership was transferred from a conglomerate of some 250 companies that belonged to Babis to Babis' family members. The EU farm subsidy was meant for medium and small businesses and Agrofert would not have been eligible for it.

Agrofert later took over ownership of the farm again.

An EU report into the case that was not published but leaked to local media seemed to support the Czech investigators.

Lawmakers also lifted immunity for Babis' deputy, Jaroslav Faltynek, in his centrist ANO (YES) movement that won October's parliamentary election.

Both Babis and Faltynek have been charged by police but deny wrongdoing. They claim the case is politically motivated.

Acting at the request of police, lawmakers in the lower house already agreed to lift the immunity from prosecution for Babis and Faltynek in September but following the election they had to do it all over again.

Because of the charges, no party has been willing to form a coalition government with ANO after the election, forcing Babis to create a minority government that failed Tuesday to win a mandatory confidence vote in Parliament.

Babis is scheduled to submit his resignation to President Milos Zeman on Wednesday. Zeman, his ally, has said he would ask him to form a government again.

Any new government still has to win a parliamentary confidence vote to rule.

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