Czechs should learn on Wednesday the precise dates when they should take part in presidential elections. Head of the upper house, the Senate, Milan Štech, says he will announce the dates on Wednesday. The second series of direct presidential elections must take place at the latest by January 19 and 20. A second round follows as a head-off between the best placed candidates from the first round. Current incumbent Miloš Zeman, who triumphed in 2013, has said he will stand again in the elections.
Members of Andrej Babiš’s family attempted to obfuscate the ownership
structure of the Stork’s Nest farm and hotel with a view to covering up
links between it and the ANO leader, Czech Radio reported on Wednesday,
quoting the police.
The station said this allegation was contained in the police’s application to the Chamber of Deputies to lift the immunity of Mr. Babiš and a party colleague so they can be tried for abuse of subsidies in connection with Stork’s Nest.
The police say that the brother-in-law of the billionaire ANO chief created a number of fake contracts in a bid to hide the true owner of the farm, who prosecutors believe is Mr. Babiš himself.
Stork’s Nest, which previously belonged to Mr. Babiš’s Agrofert, received around CZK 50 million in EU subsidies.
A parliamentary commission investigating the leaking of police information quizzed prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka about what steps the government has taken to deal with the problem and how the Security Information Service (BIS), the state security service, has been used. Olomouc chief prosecutor Ivo Ištvan has also been cleared to testify as well as Jakub Frydrych, the head of the police anti-drugs unit. The commission was called to investigate following the apparent leak of internal police information in taped conversations between a journalist and ANO leader Andrej Babiš. Sobotka said police and prosecutors should take the main responsibility for safeguarding information. He added that specific measures recommended by the commission will have to be taken by the next government.
President Miloš Zeman will appoint the winner of the upcoming parliamentary elections as the next prime minister, the presidential spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told the news site Aktuálně.cz on Saturday. Mr Ovčáček spoke in reaction to the police request to lift the parliamentary immunity of former Finance Minister and ANO parta leader Andrej Babiš and the deputy chairman of the party Jaroslav Faltýnek. The request is connected with the so-called Stork’s Nest affair, where a company belonging to Babiš‘ large agro-chemical group Agrofert applied for a 50 million crown European grant for work on a recreation and hotel complex. The funding was supposed to be directed towards small and medium sized companies. Mr Ovčáček also questioned the fact that the police move came just two months ahead of the general elections in October.
Police have asked the lower house to waive parliamentary immunity in the case of MPs Andrej Babiš, the leader of the ANO party, and his deputy chairman Jaroslav Faltýnek. The police are pursuing an investigation regarding the Stork’s Nest – a recreation centre and hotel complex which belonged to a firm owned by Mr Babiš’ agro-chemical giant, Agrofert. The company received a 50 million crown EU grant for small and medium sized companies in what may have constituted fraud.
President Zeman’s nomination of Karel Srp to a board overseeing the country’s Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes hit a hurdle on Tuesday. Srp, a former dissident who headed the so-called Jazz Section in communist Czechoslovakia, was rejected by the Senate’s Commission on Election. It stressed that the nominee had been a member of Czechoslovakia’s communist party, which was disqualifying.
The Prague Regional Court will begin a second trial of former top politician David Rath in October, Czech Television reported on Tuesday, quoting the court’s website. The same institution found Mr. Rath guilty of bribe-taking two years ago but he was freed by an appeals court, which ruled that wiretaps used to prosecute the one-time Social Democrat health minister and regional governor were inadmissible. Since then the Supreme Court has ruled such recordings can be used as evidence. Mr. Rath was originally sentenced to eight and a half years for allegedly taking kick-backs to rig public contracts.
Last week, a coalition pact between the Christian Democrats and Mayors and Independents parties appeared on the brink of collapse after the Christian Democrats invited their coalition partners to run on the Christian Democrat ballot in the autumn elections. But on Tuesday, the smaller party instead voted to go-it-alone.