Czech prime minister Andrej Babis faces mounting pressure to step down, amid extraordinary claims that he forced his son out of the country to stop him testifying in a corruption case that is looming over the tycoon turned politician.
Andrej Babis jnr (35) told a Czech news outlet that he was threatened with admission to a psychiatric hospital unless he agreed to take an “extended holiday” in Crimea, where he claims to have been detained against his will by two Russians.
He told the Seznam Zpravy website that he was sent away when police wanted to talk to him about his involvement in a Czech firm that allegedly used fraud to access €2 million in EU funds a decade ago.
Prosecutors have charged his billionaire father over the matter, claiming that he was the true owner of the firm, but the premier denies wrongdoing and has long rejected calls from opponents to step aside from politics until the case is concluded.
Members of the Czech senate, the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament, backed a resolution on Thursday saying that “the participation of Andrej Babis in the government . . . is unacceptable until the end of the investigation into suspected subsidy fraud”.
Opposition leaders in the lower house are also seeking support for a motion of no-confidence in Mr Babis, who took power almost a year ago after months of uncertainty following the election victory of his populist Ano party.
Andrej jnr told Seznam Zpravy that he was taken to Crimea by the husband of a psychiatrist who had examined him in the Czech Republic and had worked as an adviser for his father in his previous role as finance minister.
"The facts are clear. My son is mentally ill. He takes medication, he has to be supervised, and he lives with his mother in Switzerland, " Mr Babis said in response to the published video interview with Andrej jnr.
“My son was not kidnapped, he left the Czech Republic voluntarily. The police investigated this matter and concluded that the kidnapping never happened,” he added.
“To film a mentally ill man, secretly and in this way, is heinous and revolting. This entire campaign is intended only to put pressure on the investigators in the [alleged fraud] case, and it is also used by the opposition.”
On Thursday, Seznam Zpravy published what it called extracts from an email from Andrej jnr, in which he responded to his father’s comments by denying that he needed “constant supervision for my pseudo-dementia”.
“He crossed a red line with that because it is a lie . . . I am not at all ‘supervised’ in Switzerland but free,” he was quoted as writing.
"I also read that the police have reopened my kidnapping case . . . I want to be in contact by telephone with Czech police who are investigating my case from Ukraine and Russia, " he added. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
His father, in turn, posted photos on Facebook of his son smiling by the seaside.
Mr Babis said they showed “our son Andrei during last year’s stay in Crimea . . . He was happy there.”