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France opens probe into former Czech PM Andrej Babiš

PARIS — French prosecutors have opened an investigation into Czech billionaire and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, on suspicion of money laundering related to his purchase of villas in the south of France.

France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), which is responsible for scrutinizing serious economic and financial crime, launched its proceedings in February 2022, according to Le Monde, after the businessman was mentioned in the Pandora papers — a massive leak of documents that exposed how the rich and powerful use offshore companies to hide their wealth.

According to the documents, the former Czech leader failed to disclose a series of shell companies used to buy a multimillion-euro French property. 

Babiš denied he had done anything wrong or illegal and said that the revelations were targeting his reelection campaign, which later failed.

French investigators are now focusing on how Babiš acquired his €14 million property in the billionaire haven of Mougins, which was purchased via a Monaco-based company owned by an offshore entity in the U.S.

The entire setup was allegedly hidden from French authorities and could constitute money laundering and a tax evasion scheme, Le Monde reported.

Karel Hanzelka, a spokesman for Babiš’s group Agrofert, said that “all our transactions took place in a perfectly legal manner and we paid all the required taxes.”

Babiš, the Czech Republic’s fifth richest man, also stands accused of having benefited from €2 million of European funds that were meant for small and medium-sized companies in the country. The billionaire is due to appear in court on September 12 for the case.

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