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Polish justice minister hints at probe over 1990s debt service scam

PR dla Zagranicy
Grzegorz Siwicki 10.09.2018 08:05
A probe may be opened into possible “political responsibility” of officials for a massive fraud case that rocked Poland shortly after it shook off communism in 1989, the country’s justice minister has hinted.
Poland's Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Zbigniew Ziobro. Photo: PAP/Paweł SupernakPoland's Justice Minister and Prosecutor-General Zbigniew Ziobro. Photo: PAP/Paweł Supernak

Zbigniew Ziobro was speaking after a Polish businessman convicted for masterminding the fraud was extradited from the United States and arrived in Warsaw on Saturday afternoon, escorted by police, according to officials.

The businessman, Dariusz Przywieczerski, was formerly CEO of Universal Foreign Trade Enterprise and a central figure in a scandal surrounding the Foreign Debt Service Fund (FOZZ), a government agency that was set up shortly before the fall of communism in Poland in 1989 and tasked with buying Polish debt through intermediaries.

A Warsaw court in March 2005 sentenced Przywieczerski to three-and-a-half years in prison for being part of the FOZZ scandal and for siphoning around USD 1.5 million out of the Fund’s coffers, Polish public broadcaster TVP Info has said.

However, Przywieczerski did not show up in the courtroom to hear the verdict at the time; instead he disappeared.

He is thought to have left Poland immediately and lived on money he had in foreign bank accounts, tvp.info said.

Przywieczerski lived and owned real estate in Belarus before he eventually escaped to the United States, according to the Polish public broadcaster.

Ziobro told TVP Info on Saturday that while it was no longer possible to reinvestigate the FOZZ fraud case after almost three decades in terms of the “legal and criminal” responsibility of any of those involved, a probe could be conducted into the possible “political responsibility” of former officials.

The scam raises the “question of the responsibility of politicians who oversaw FOZZ,” Ziobro told TVP Info in an interview, specifically naming former Deputy Prime Minister Leszek Balcerowicz, who he said supervised the controversial Fund in his role as finance minister.

“We are talking about an enormous amount of money. His role in the case and political responsibility is obvious," Ziobro said, referring to Balcerowicz, who is now an outspoken critic of Poland's ruling conservatives.

Balcerowicz was the architect of free market reforms and the economic “shock therapy” applied to Poland following the 1989 collapse of the communist regime in the country.

‘Mother of all scams’

Ziobro told reporters on Saturday that "very influential men from various backgrounds" were part of the scam, including “people linked to Poland’s former communist security service” and “people with links to the Soviet security services,” in addition to “ordinary thugs and gangsters."

He also said that some justice system officials had been afraid of the case. He called the FOZZ affair “an explosive mixture, a conglomerate of ties, a confluence of all things evil.”

Ziobro echoed a statement by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who has called the scandal "the mother of all scams" in post-communist Poland.

Ziobro also told reporters that Przywieczerski's extradition showed that Poland’s ruling conservatives were effectively bringing to justice those who have robbed the country through fraud and otherwise.

“Dariusz Przywieczerski used to say of himself that he was the Napoleon of Polish business,” Ziobro said.

“Well, today he has met his Waterloo,” he added.


Source: TVP Info, PAP

tags: FOZZ
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