Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Son of Czech PM abducted to Crimea

...by his own father's Russian aide...
Another story in English here (one more)

Czech PM Andrej Babiš has been charged with subsidy fraud. By obfuscating the identity of the owner of a farm, the billionaire pocketed a $2 million subsidy for small businesses in the tourism industry when he was building The Stork Nest, a luxurious family farm and conference center. By now, police has about 10 huge packages of evidence (witnesses of many kinds, documents, data about the registration of Internet domains etc.) that he executed the subsidy fraud deliberately.

While he may be arrested for up to 10 years (the Parliament has stripped him of his immunity for this case) and this is not his only apparent crime, $2 million is obviously not a global story. But last night, two Czech investigative journalists have released a truly shocking story. A year ago, Russian people who work for Czech PM Andrej Babiš have abducted the prime minister's first own son, Andrej Babiš Jr, to (Moscow and then) the old new Russian peninsula, Crimea, to make sure that he – clearly a key witness – wouldn't be interviewed by the police during the Stork Nest investigation.

It makes perfect sense that the Russian guy (or someone else) chose Crimea – almost no Czech or Westerner would dare to go there.

Andrej Babiš Jr is 35 and he used to be a pilot (Travel Service, Boeing 737; in Spring 2015 he was fired not due to health but for disobedience of authorities) – which, in my opinion, shows that his mental health was probably very good (although there have been exceptions among pilots, including the suicidal one). For several years, he's been treated as a psychiatric patient of a sort after he made fun of some cops. I don't know the details of that story but I feel suspicious about the whole reclassification of this guy as mentally unhealthy.

Two years ago or so, the Stork Nest investigation started. After some time of complete obfuscation, Babiš at least admitted that the Stork Nest stocks were actually owned by his kids including Mr Andrej and Ms Adriana (and by his current brother-in-law Mr Herodes) – the daughter lives in the Slovak capital. For some reasons, both Andrej and Adriana were reported as unable to be investigated due to their mental health issues even though they have worked in demanding occupations (Adriana is claimed to be bipolar now; Andrej Jr is officially "neurodivergent").

Now, the bombshell story with a rather dramatic 34-video is called
Special investigation: my father wanted me to disappear. They kept me in Crimea. Reporters of Seznam.cz found Babiš Jr in Switzerland.
The Czech police were unable to find Andrej Babiš Jr for years. The very fact that the son of a European prime minister is "invisible" for two years could be strange enough. But it gets worse. The two journalists who did a better job at looking for Babiš Jr were Mr Jiří Kubík and especially Ms Sabina Slonková, a redhead who used to work for a daily that was owned by Babiš himself (now the ownership continues indirectly through a trust).

She got inconvenient at some point, Babiš and pals have fired her, but because she's such an incredibly good journalist, she immediately created competing media and her influence over the media space increased further. Now she's been also hired by Seznam.cz, the Czech formidable counterpart of Google owned by Mr Ivo Lukačovič, a young billionaire. "Seznam" translates as a "list" or a "directory". One of the newest projects of that company is a new TV channel – that is already available on old-fashioned TVs, too – and Kubík and Slonková work for the Seznam TV News. And she clearly continues to do some amazing job. Needless to say, Babiš is a favorite focus of her work and Babiš himself calls her a jilted redhead.

Don't get me wrong: I don't doubt that she has personal reasons to be negatively obsessed with Babiš but if she finds some very serious things, and it seems that she and Mr Kubík did, I don't think that their personal animosity changes anything substantial about the findings.

What have they found?

They tried to find Babiš Jr in Czechia, in the Slovak capital, and all the promising addresses of his residence have failed. But at some moment, they learned he could be in Switzerland, jumped on a flight, and went there. After some tricks, they got into the modest apartment block and found the door where Babiš Jr lives – it turned out, his mother and Babiš's first wife Beatrice lives there, too. Their names aren't even on the door. The first wife and first son of PM Babiš are clearly hiding.

They said they didn't want to talk to the journalists. At the same moment, it became immediately clear that they had something to share. In a few minutes of the interview, plus from some e-mails that Andrej Babiš Jr and the journalists exchanged later, lots of shocking facts were revealed. The last two years were hell for Andrej Babiš Jr.

After he had the spirited interaction with the cops, he was taken to a psychiatric asylum where he met Dr Dita Protopopová [the correct Czech name would be Protopopovová, however], a psychiatrist (who unsuccessfully ran for a mayor for Babiš's ANO movement and) who became his doctor and who later wrote that Babiš Jr was unable to be interviewed by the police (which seems to be clearly rubbish now, after we saw him by a hidden camera: to say the least, he is unquestionably capable of being interviewed in Czech; at any rate, the clash of her interests is obvious). Her Russian husband Mr Petr Protopopov looks like a typical scary muscular Russian gangster of a lower category.

A year ago, Babiš Jr said, he was told that it was necessary to hide him so that he couldn't be interviewed by the Czech police. He got two options from Ms Protopopová. Either he would be closed to a psychiatric asylum for good, or he would go to a vacation. He picked the vacation. He was transferred by Mr Protopopov to Moscow and then to top Crimean Black Sea resorts/cities, Yalta and Sevastopol (at least, the son should have been sent to the famous summer camp Artek). Mr Protopopov was threatening Babiš Jr in many ways, Babiš Jr seems to be scared to death. Babiš Jr told the journalists that Protopopov had told him that "he [Protopopov] and his dad [Babiš Sr] would make sure he's disappeared somewhere for good". Babiš Jr also said that "it was the Russian guy's idea to take him to Crimea, not my dad's". Well, I am not sure whether the son can know whether it was so.

Babiš Jr was then transferred from Crimea to Slovakia and he ultimately escaped from his kidnappers to Switzerland where he got citizenship.

The anxious young man and the journalists have exchanged some e-mail afterwards. Babiš Jr wrote a message to the journalists in which he clarified his previous verbal assertion that "technically he had something to do with the Stork Nest": Andrej Babiš Jr was basically forced to sign "something" even though he didn't really know what he was signing. Babiš has apparently used his son as one of the tools to complete the subsidy fraud.

Can you imagine that Donald Trump Sr would order abduction of Donald Trump Jr (also from the first marriage, also the same name) to Crimea or a psychiatric asylum against the son's will, to obstruct an investigation?

But the conclusions seem rather clear: In order to obstruct the investigation of his fraud, Czech PM ordered the abduction of his own son to Crimea where the son was accompanied by a self-evident Russian gangster ("a very pro-Russian primitive man") that has repeatedly scared Babiš Jr to death. He turned the life of his own son to hell. Thankfully, Dr Protopopová is no longer the physician of Babiš Jr. He found more friendly Swiss doctors and got the Swiss citizenship. We learned that Babiš Jr is still eating some psychiatric medication. Well, let's hope that there are reasons for that and the Swiss doctors aren't parts of the plot.

During his rants in the Parliament, Babiš was swearing to the health of his children that he had done nothing wrong. Curiously, two of the adult children are already ill. Needless to say, this terror against his own son that was made in order to cover Babiš's illegal activity is a powerful stuff, the reactions were immediate and came within hours, and the opposition plans a new vote on the confidence for the government. Lots of lawmakers in the Parliament have an infinitely strong stomach, however.

Meanwhile, Andrej Babiš Sr, the Czech prime minister, is outside Czechia. If you have read the story above carefully, you should be able to guess which Southern European city is currently hosting him on a business trip. Yes, Babiš is in Palermo right now – maybe he is there to give a talk titled "How to do your most favorite occupation more professionally". Palermo is so appropriate – except that Cosa Nostra always tried to be nice to all the family members.

The story is scary but it is just another level of the wrongdoing that Mr Babiš's political career has been able to survive so far – level that makes Czechia better at some "Central Asian" skills than most of the countries in Central Asia. Can he survive this? Can't he simply add "abduction" to "spying for the communist secret police" and "subsidy fraud" as issues that aren't problems for him? While I am shocked by the story itself, I am also amazed that we have investigative journalists of this caliber. Whether or not I would agree with all of their political opinions, and the answer is almost certainly No, I think that they're brave souls and truly competent professionals. And I am surely a person who appreciates such virtues.

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