Through his offshore companies, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš allegedly sent almost 400 million korunas (€15.8 million), for which he then bought real estate on the French Riviera, including the Bigaud chateau. While Babiš is being accused of participating in what some experts say is a likely case of money laundering, Babiš denies the accusation and, according to him, the money was taxed.
The findings were published by the global Pandora Papers project, which is backed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Babiš said there is no evidence of anything illegal in this case. He added that he sees the project as an attempt to denigrate him and influence the election.
“Well, so here it is. I was waiting for what they would pull on me just before the election to hurt me and influence the Czech election. This time, a 12-year-old case from the time before I entered politics. There is no case they could pull on me while I was in politics. In this case, it is clear that I have done nothing illegal or wrong, but that does not prevent them from trying to denigrate me again and thus influence the Czech parliamentary elections. It’s the same before each election. They pull something out from the ancient past, and then it turns out that nothing happened,” Babiš reacted.
The Investigace.cz website, the Czech branch involved in the project, stated that in July 2009, Babiš, with the help of the French law firm DB Artwell Avocats and the Panamanian law firm Alcogal, had companies set up anonymously and discreetly, with puppet directors.
“Four months later, he used this structure to transfer €15 million from one of his companies to another. Basically, he provided himself a loan for the purchase of sixteen luxury properties in France, including the aforementioned Château Bigaud on the Côte d’Azur,” wrote Investigace.cz.
The Investigace.cz website refused that it would try to influence the elections by publishing information or that it would target primarily and intentionally the Czech prime minister. The website pointed out that over 600 journalists from all over the world who worked on the international Pandora Papers project had to agree on the date of publication.
In France, according to the website, Babiš is in danger of losing his property if he does not prove the origin of the €15 million, based on the law on declaring assets. He could also face an investigation in the United States since the property purchases bears signs of money laundering and involves his American company, the website claims. Furthermore, the Czech police can also start investigating the case.
The Pandora Papers project is based on almost 12 million documents from 14 law firms, with over 600 journalists from more than a hundred countries working on it. They claim that the project revealed how the powerful and wealthy use offshore companies and non-transparent jurisdictions for anonymity and tax optimization. According to them, the names of criminals, celebrities, politicians, football players, judges, and people from tax authorities around the world appear in the documents.