Panel says mishandled restitution deals cost Warsaw billions
PR dla Zagranicy
Warsaw has lost billions as a result of mishandled restitution deals, a panel of MPs probing suspected reprivatisation irregularities in the Polish capital said on Monday.
Patryk Jaki (right), head of the special parliamentary commission, and member Jan Mosiński (left) during a news conference in Warsaw on Monday. PAP/Rafał Guz
The city has lost some PLN 12.2 billion (EUR 3.25 billion, USD 3.25 billion) in property unlawfully returned to private owners, the special parliamentary commission said in a report.
According to the report, which was released less than two weeks ahead of local government elections, the total value of property that reverted into private hands in Warsaw had exceeded PLN 21.5 billion by 2016.
The head of the commission, Patryk Jaki, a deputy justice minister who is running for mayor of Warsaw in the upcoming local elections, said that property restitution in Warsaw after 1989 was often “criminal in nature” and marred by corruption and the existence of a “reprivatisation mafia,” public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency reported.
Massive web of malpractice suspected
The special parliamentary commission started working last year to investigate a scandal over the restitution of prime real estate in the Polish capital that has seen the dismissal of several officials at Warsaw City Hall, and calls for Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz to resign.
The commission aims to either uphold restitution decisions or revoke them and to decide that owners can be stripped of unlawfully obtained property.
The conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government says the commission has helped address glaring cases of injustice amid allegations of a massive web of malpractice involving Warsaw City Hall officials.
The opposition, meanwhile, has argued that the commission encroaches on the powers of the courts.
Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Warsaw mayor since 2006 and once a leading light in the opposition Civic Platform (PO) party, has refused to appear before the commission, arguing the body is unconstitutional.
The origins of the scandal date back to the seizure of property under the October 1945 Bierut Decree, named after former Polish communist leader Bolesław Bierut, which legalised the confiscation of private property.
Thousands of buildings were taken from their owners. After the fall of communism in Poland in 1989, it has been possible to submit claims for the return of such confiscated property.