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France begins looking into the alleged money laundering of the former Czech prime minister

Former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is the subject of an investigation by French authorities into possible money laundering.

The National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) has launched a preliminary investigation into the former PM with a particular focus on Mr. Babis' purchase of real estate in France using a number of offshore companies.

The billionaire, who held the position of prime minister from 2017 to 2021, was ousted from office in October 2021 as a result of the $22 million (€21.6 million) real estate deal that was exposed in the Pandora Papers, according to Le Monde.

His purchase of the property in the South of France was the subject of an investigation by France's Central Office Against Corruption, Financial and Fiscal Offenses (OCLCIFF) in February.

In 2009, Mr. Babis transferred $22 million (€21.6 million) from a company he owned listed in the British Virgin Islands, Blakey Finance Ltd., to a company listed in Washington, D.C. that was also owned by the former prime minister.

The ICIJ claims that after this transfer, the money was sent to a SCP Bigaud subsidiary in Monaco as "back-to-back loan... directly for the final purpose of financing the Real Estate's acquisition."

The former Czech PM gradually transferred the real estate ownership to an entity he publicly owns in 2016 and 2018. He allegedly used a "surprising technique" in which he gave his wife shares of the businesses, who later gave them back to her husband's holding company.

Agrofert, a representative for his organization, told the ICIJ in an email that "all our transactions took place in a perfectly legal manner and we have paid all the required taxes."

Mr. Babis' ANO party lost an extremely tight election to two opposition coalitions in October 2021, who received 27.79% and 15.62% of the vote, respectively.

"There is no case that they can pull against me during the time I am in politics," Mr. Babis tweeted just days after the publication of the Pandora Papers. He flatly denied any improper behavior.

"I have never done anything unlawful or bad, but it does stop them to try to slander me again and to try to influence Czech parliamentary elections," he claimed.

The former prime minister and businessman had a rocky relationship with the electorate while in office and is estimated to be worth $3.4 billion (€3.07 billion).

Following a European Commission audit that revealed Mr. Babis had broken conflict of interest rules by controlling trust funds connected to his conglomerate, Agrofert, thousands of Czechs protested in the streets in 2019 over his financial dealings.

The audit was "manipulated and artificially induced by professional snitches" from the opposition, according to Mr. Babis, who rejected the findings.


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