Czech PM Babiš says he bought real estate in France through offshore companies, but asserts the transaction was legal

Babiš said that the Pandora Papers was timed to harm his election chances and that any investigation will find that his property purchase was legal

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Jan Menšík, Novinky
Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis is one of 330 current and former politicians identified in the Pandora Papers, but he points out that his transaction was legal.(AP Photo/Laszlo Balogh, File)

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš admitted that he bought 16 properties in France for almost 400 million korunas (€15.8 million) which, according to the findings published in the so-called Pandora Papers, he sent through his offshore companies. However, Babiš said there was nothing illegal about the purchase, and he made it before he became a politician.

On Monday, Babiš said he bought real estate on the French Riviera, and told reporters that the purchase through a chain of offshore companies was recommended by a real estate agency. He admitted that the procedure was not suitable for politicians, but he was not a politician at the time.

“It was a recommendation from a real estate agency, which recommended buying it through a lawyer. It is nothing illegal,“ said Babiš.

At the same time, however, Babiš stated that he does not even technically own any real estate now.

“I do not own any offshore companies, nor do I own any real estate in France. Due to the Czech law about conflict of interest, I do not even have my former Czech company,” wrote the prime minister, who rejects the findings of investigative journalists and considers it an attempt to denigrate him before the parliamentary elections, which take place on Friday and Saturday.

Babiš does not have these properties written to his name. The assets fall under the holding companies Agrofert and SynBiol, which the prime minister transferred to trust funds in 2017 due to the Conflict of Interest Act. However, the prime minister is still a beneficiary of the fund. After leaving politics, he can take the holdings from the funds again.

PM Babiš allegedly sent €15.8 million through offshore companies

The website wrote on Sunday that Babiš sent almost 400 million korunas (€15.8 million) through his offshore companies, for which he then bought 16 properties on the French Riviera, including the Bigaud chateau.

In July 2009, Babiš, with the help of the French law firm DB Artwell Avocats and the Panamanian law firm Alcogal, allegedly set up companies anonymously and discreetly, where the directors were involved.

“Four months later, he used this structure to transfer €15 million (then 381 million korunas) from one of his companies to another. In essence, he lent himself money to buy 16 luxury properties in France, including the aforementioned Château Bigaud on the Côte d’Azur,“ the news site wrote.

Babiš supports police investigation

On Monday, the National Center against Organized Crime announced that it would deal with the Pandora Papers case concerning the involvement of Czech citizens. Babiš said he backs the investigation.

“I can see from the media that the police are supposed to check it out, that’s fine. It will turn out the same as with the equally contrived bond affair, where I had my income audited because of it. The audit confirmed that I was right and did nothing wrong,“ the prime minister added.

In Pandora Papers, more than 300 Czechs and 178 offshore companies with a Czech background appear in the leaked documents. In addition to Babiš, there are other Czechs on the list, but they were not named. The lists also include the names of world politicians.

The European Commission has so far declined to comment on the details of the Pandora Papers case. “We cannot comment on the specific names or entities cited in these documents,” Dana Spinant, a spokeswoman for the EU executive, said at Monday’s briefing.

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