Mon, 17 Dec 2018
35
Hartford

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis's 35-year-old son says he was held against his will in Crimea after associates of his father arranged to send him there amid scrutiny over accusations of embezzlement of European Union funds.

A November 13 report on Internet TV network Seznam included a brief interview in which Babis's son, who is also named Andrej, said he was coerced into traveling to Crimea on a vacation that turned into an 'abduction.'

The elder Babis said that his son was mentally ill and denied he was abducted, writing on Facebook that he had 'left the Czech Republic of his own will' and that 'police have investigated the case and concluded that there was no abduction.'

Babis, a former finance minister who became prime minister in December 2017, said in March 2016 that his two children from his first marriage, Andrej and daughter Adriana, were owners of a farm and a convention center outside Prague called Stork's Nest.

He spoke after he was accused of illegally obtaining 2 million euros ($2.25 million) in EU small-business subsidies by concealing his ownership of Stork's Nest.

In the Seznam report, the younger Babis said that a man working as a driver at his father's company, Agrofert, whom he identified as Petr Protopopov, a Russian, took advantage of 'my father's wish to make me disappear' amid the Stork's Nest scandal.

He said that Protopopov and his wife, Dita Protopopova, a psychiatrist who treated him, 'were very much trusted and they abused that trust.'

Protopopova 'told me that I can either be kept in a psychiatric clinic or go on 'vacation' and I chose the vacation,' the younger Babis said, adding that the vacation turned into 'an abduction.'

According to the Seznam report, Babis said by e-mail that he was held against his will 'for a long time' on the Russian-controlled Ukrainian peninsula, including at rented apartments in Sevastopol and Yalta.

Without mentioning dates, he said that he later traveled to Slovakia and 'eventually escaped to Switzerland by bus.'

The elder Babis called the Seznam report a 'manipulation' and 'pressure by journalists on law enforcement authorities.'

He said that his son was on medication, 'must permanently be under supervision, and lives in Switzerland with his mother.

RFE/RL

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Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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