France Investigates Former Czech PM Babiš’ Luxury Property Purchases
French financial prosecutors are investigating former Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš on suspicion of money laundering in connection to purchases of luxury properties using a network of offshore shell firms, Le Monde reported.
first revealed in October last year by OCCRP and its Czech member center, Investigace.cz. The joint investigation showed that in 2009, Babiš used a complex offshore operation to acquire 16 properties in the French Riviera commune of Mougins, including a chateau used as a summer residence.The case was
Information from the Pandora Papers –– a massive leak from 14 corporate service providers obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) –– showed how Babiš set up a British Virgin Islands company to which he subsequently sent 15 million euros. This sum was secretly loaned to other shell companies he controlled in the U.S. and Monaco, and then funneled into the properties.
Financial crime experts described the scheme as “a textbook example of money laundering.” But Babiš denied any wrongdoing at the time, and he repeated his innocence on Friday.
“I can say that the whole 2009 transaction took place according to the law. It was done by lawyers on the recommendation of the real estate agency. The money I sent there was mine and it was taxed,” he told Czech Television, a state broadcaster.
The Czech Republic’s National Center Against Organized Crime investigated Babiš, but found no criminal offense committed in the country, a spokesman told the broadcaster in February, adding that the agency had sent its findings to another EU country.
The Pandora Papers revelations came to light as Babiš –– who had swept into power on an anti-corruption platform –– was running for re-election as prime minister. He lost by a narrow margin.
Currently, Babiš is crisscrossing the country in a camper van in what is speculated to be a campaign for the upcoming presidential election. In the wake of the French National Financial Prosecutor's Office investigation, politicians took to social media to criticize him.
“Andrej Babiš is haunted by one scandal after another and he is unable to draw political accountability from it. Fortunately, he doesn’t represent us internationally anymore,” tweeted Markéta Pekarová Adamová, leader of TOP 09, one of the parties forming the government coalition.
“Finally a politician written about in the international media. Unfortunately, it is in connection with the investigation for alleged money laundering,” independent senator Pavel Fischer posted to Twitter.