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The Prague City Court on Monday acquitted former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in the so-called Stork’s Nest case. The acquittal comes just days before the Czech presidential elections in which Andrej Babiš is a strong candidate. On Friday and Saturday, some 8.3 million Czech voters will decide on the successor to the outgoing head of state, Miloš Zeman.
In the Stork’s Nest case, Andrej Babiš was suspected of having misappropriated 50 million Czech koruna (EUR 2 million) in EU funding for the construction of a leisure center called the Stork’s Nest, over a decade ago.
The prosecution had asked for a three-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 10 million Czech koruna (EUR 416,000), but the court found the charges to be unfounded and acquitted the former prime minister. The other defendant in the Stork’s Nest case, Jana Nagyová, a former adviser to Babiš, was also acquitted.
From the outset, Babiš described the case as a political attack against him and claimed that it was aimed at removing him from politics.
“I am very happy that we have an independent court. The court has confirmed what I have been saying from the beginning: I am not guilty and I have done nothing against the law,” said the president of the opposition ANO (Action of Dissatisfied Citizens) political party, after the panel’s decision.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, his long term political ally, also welcomed the verdict, wishing Babiš all the best in a Twitter post. “Glad to see that the facts still matter,” he wrote, encouraging the former Czech prime minister to “keep on fighting.”
Glad to see that facts still matter! My best wishes to @AndrejBabis . Keep on fighting! https://t.co/66YPQVRIw6
— Orbán Viktor (@PM_ViktorOrban) January 9, 2023
The piquant part of the case is that the scandal was brought to the attention of the public by Transparency International, among others, in the Czech Republic in 2019, who demanded the resignation of Babiš as Prime Minister. It is worth noting that one of Transparency International’s main financial supporters is the Open Societies Foundation, which is linked to George Soros.
This was followed by protests in Prague against Andrej Babiš, calling for the overthrow of the government.
These demonstrations were regularly attended by NGOs in the Czech Republic that are funded by George Soros. In addition, David Ondráčka, the head of Transparency International, was among those who spoke at the demonstrations, calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister.
Babiš’ supporters regard the Stork’s Nest case as an artificial media scandal based on lies. But it has had an impact, as Babiš’ party lost the 2021 elections. Only a week before the elections, another Soros-funded NGO, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), broke the so called Pandora Papers scandal, which swung the opposition coalition half a percent over the serving prime minister’s ANO movement by half a percent.
It is also worth noting that both cases virtually disappeared from the Czech press after the elections.
Now, another important election is approaching in the Czech Republic, with the presidential elections to be held January 27-28.
The two main contenders are Babiš and former general Petr Pavel, with the two men running neck and neck in the polls, with only a few tenths of a percentage point difference. However, there is also a sense of uncertainty among voters, with Median polling showing that some 36 percent of voters do not yet know who they will vote for.
Featured photo via Facebook/Andrej Babiš