Czech lawmakers on Friday decided to lift the parliamentary immunity enjoyed by the country's beleaguered prime minister, meaning prosecutors are free to pursue charges against him for alleged European Union subsidy fraud.
Andrej Babis, a populist billionaire who won the Oct. 2017 legislative elections but did not secure a majority with his ANO party, has been accused of fixing agricultural property listings to illegally benefit from some 2 million euros ($2.29m) in EU funds, allegations he had been protected from due to his parliamentary immunity.
But following a long debate in country's lower house, lawmakers decided to heed a police petition and vote in favor of removing that parliamentary privilege, thus paving the way for prosecutors to formally press charges.
The EU's anti-fraud office OLAF suspects that Babis transferred ownership of a farm south of Prague into a friend's name in 2007 so that it would be eligible for agricultural subsidies only to later bring the property back under the holding of his agricultural giant Agrofest.
The PM has dismissed the allegations as purely political.
Babis' party subordinate and suspected co-conspirator in the case, Jaroslav Faltýnek, was also stripped of his parliamentary immunity.
The pair has so far failed to cobble together cross-party support required to form a minority government.
Babis was previously stripped of his parliamentary immunity when he was fired from his role as finance minister in May 2017.
As well as presiding over an agricultural and chemical business empire, the controversial Babis, who has been dubbed the Czech Donald Trump, is the second-richest man in the Czech Republic and owns two important national newspapers, three TV channels and two radio stations.