Prague, Czech Republic – French prosecutors have opened an investigation into former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš for suspected money laundering.
A €14 million villa in the south of France
The fifth richest man in the Czech Republic with eyes now set on the Czech presidency, Babiš has been under suspicion of money laundering in France for months, daily Le Monde revealed, after his name appeared in the so-called Pandora papers – an extensive leak of documents revealing the extent of the offshore industry used by the world’s elite in October 2021.
France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PFN) launched proceedings against the Czech billionaire in February 2022, suspecting the former Prime Minister of using a string of secret offshore companies to buy his €14 million villa in Mougins, in the south-east of France, and concealing the whole process to French authorities.
“The operation set up by the businessman in September 2009 is particularly complex,” Le Monde explains. “The two properties, including a villa of more than 500 square meters on a three-hectare plot of land, were purchased by a Monaco-based company owned by an offshore entity in the United States”.
And while the bill of sale of the villa indicates that the €14 million were “paid in cash”, documents published as part of the Pandora Papers allege that Babiš’s American company took out a loan of €15 million from a company registered in the British Virgin Islands to finance the purchase.
Offshore companies and presidential bid
This complex legal apparatus based on offshore companies in tax havens could constitute money laundering, French prosecutors claim. They further point to the fact that Babiš transferred the ownership of the Mougins villas to his holding company, via his wife Monika Babišova, once more using complex financial transaction schemes in 2016 and 2018.
Babiš, who is no stranger to judicial entanglements, has always dismissed accusations of financial malpractice and tax evasion. He did not respond directly to the latest allegations.
“All our transactions took place in a perfectly legal manner and we paid all the required taxes,” commented a spokesman for Babiš’s giant conglomerate Agrofert.
The businessman had previously claimed the Pandora Papers revelations about his French villa were manufactured by his political opponents to hurt his campaign.
Although still not officially a candidate, Andrej Babiš has been criss-crossing the Czech Republic in recent weeks in full-campaign mode. He is widely believed to be laying the ground for a run for Czech President in the upcoming March 2023 elections.