The 'Czech Donald Trump' Meets With Real Donald Trump in White House
Two scandal-ridden billionaire world leaders met in the Oval Office in the White House on Thursday.
President Donald Trump, who is dogged by allegations of collusion with Russia during his presidential election and hush-money payments for extra-marital affairs, welcomed Andrej Babiš, the Czech Republic Prime Minister, who has been charged with fraud related to his business dealings, for a meeting at the White House.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump first sat with Babiš and his wife Monika Babišova in the Oval Office, where Trump praised Babis and the Czech Republic, stating how the Eastern European country is “safe” and has a “strong military.”
Babiš said the two countries have a “very good relationship” and mentioned how the two leaders will discuss terrorism, illegal immigration and international trade.
“Mr. President, I watched your 2019 State of the Union Address, and I perfectly understand your plan: how to make America great again,” Babiš said. “I have a similar plan to make the Czech Republic great again.”
Besides being the first billionaire leaders in their respective countries—Trump’s net worth is currently at $3.1 billion and Babiš is at $3.8 billion—the two leaders have a lot in common. Trump and Babiš are both known for their divisive, nationalistic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and both are both ensnared by ongoing investigations.
Nicknamed the “Czech Donald Trump,” Babiš, who is the second-richest person in the Czech Republic, is the leader of the Action for Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) party and served as the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy from 2014 to 2017. He was elected prime minister in December 2017 while fighting accusations of conflicts of interest and fraud.
Prior to the election, he was required to put his conglomerate Agrofert, which owns two Czech national newspapers, the country’s largest commercial radio station, and spans over 200 companies in agriculture, chemicals and real estate, into trusts to comply with a Czech conflict-of-interest law. Just weeks before the election, police charged Babiš with fraud over allegations that his business improperly received millions of dollars in European Union subsidies over a decade ago.
The charges allege that Babiš misled the European Union about the ownership of Capi Hnizdo (Stork Nest), a resort 50 kilometers southeast of Prague with a hotel, restaurant, spa, golf course and equestrian riding school, to receive the $2.2 million subsidy meant for small businesses.
In November 2018, Andrej Babiš, Jr., Babiš’ 35-year-old son, was featured in a documentary claiming that he was tricked into going to Crimea where he was abducted during a ruse to prevent him from testifying about the alleged fraud. It was also reported that the EU subsidy was granted to Capi Hnizdo after its ownership was transferred from Babiš, Sr. to Babiš, Jr. and his sister, and Monika Babišova and her brother.
Babiš, who is 64 and was born in what is today Slovakia, denies these allegations. The case is ongoing.
The bulk of Babiš’ fortune comes from Agrofert, which he owns all of and is worth $3.3 billion. One of Agrofert’s biggest sectors is fertilizer. The billionaire started his career as a fertilizer trader and launched Agrofert in 1993 with four employees. Babiš first became a billionaire in 2010. Today, the company has 34,000 employees and approximate revenues of $5.2 billion.
Babiš also owns an 88% stake of Hartenberg Holding, which invests in hospitals, in vitro fertilization clinics, food production and real estate, worth $200 million. About five years ago Babiš spun Imoba, a real estate venture, out of Agrofert. Babiš’ stake in Imoba is worth about $180 million. He also owns the Michelin-starred restaurant La Paloma in the French Riviera.
Trump and Babiš are not the only billionaires who became politicians. In the U.S., Jim Justice, the coal mine billionaire, is the governor of West Virginia; J.B. Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, is the governor of Illinois; and Linda McMahon, whose husband bought and grew professional wrestling empire WWE, is the head of the Small Business Administration.
Abroad, French billionaire Olivier Dassault, who inherited part of the aerospace and software conglomerate Dassault Groupe from his father, serves as a representative in the French National Assembly. Sebastian Pinera, the president of Chile, made a fortune from credit card company Bancard, which he founded in 1976.