Meanwhile in Cuckooland 91

Today’s chapter will deal solely with financial matters. This is number one topic in Poland at the moment. PiS still goes about the pyramid scam “Amber Gold”, which they call the biggest financial scandal in Polish history (as we are going to learn, wrongly). For nearly three years they try to tie Donald Tusk to it somehow, but let’s be honest: he is clean here. Everything they have is the fact that he was a prime minister when it happened, and his son for a brief time worked for one of the companies related to Amber Gold.

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Nonetheless, they don’t give up. A parliamentary commission investigating the case of Amber Gold, that serves only one purpose – to throw shit at Tusk in hope, that something will stick to him – summoned him again. I bet they really regret it now, as he is way above their league. While the commission chief Małgorzata Wasserman desperately tried to create an illusion that he is somehow morally responsible for the fact that people, who fell for Amber Gold scam, lost their life savings, relaxed Tusk openly mocked her and her colleagues and used every opportunity to criticize the government. Best moments of this deposition can be seen here:

No wonder, that pro-PiS media started to panic. They realised, that if Tusk wanted to come back to Polish politics, they have nobody who would be able to match him. Hence, the scaremongering begins:

(note how his hair are coloured red in one of the pictures: kids in Poland believe, that ginger people cannot be trusted – this is the level of discourse there).

Fast forward a week or so and I bet that Małgorzata Wasserman really regrets that she was going out of her way to lecture Tusk about prime minister’s personal responsibility to supervise activities of the Financial Supervision Authority. And not only because it was promptly pointed out, that FSA’s powers in controlling para-banking institutions were tied, because PiS was doing everything in its power to stop it into sniffing around SKOK saving societies, that for many years were abused by PiS members who syphoned money out of the system and funnelled it through some shady foundations abroad. The SKOK financial scandal is the true elephant in the room here.

But reminding everyone that what is going on in the financial world is the personal responsibility of the prime minister turned out to be catastrophic for PiS a few days after Tusk’s deposition. One of the richest Poles Leszek Czarnecki (no relation with PiS’ Ryszard Czarnecki) published a recording he made during a meeting with Marek Chrzanowski, a director of FSA back in March. The banks owned by Czarnecki are not doing great, and recent decisions of the FSA have put even more pressure on them, requiring Czarnecki to invest millions in them to keep them afloat. Chrzanowski offered Czarnecki a deal: if he employs a certain lawyer and pays him 40 000 000 zł, FSA will loosen the regulations, allowing Czarnecki’s bank to catch a breath and giving him time to restructure them. Chrzanowski will also prevent the plan to tighten the screw even further in order to enable the government to take over Czarnecki’s banks as failed ones for 1 zł. So basically this is one of the biggest corruption scandals ever: Czarnecki was given a choice: to pay 1% of what his bank is worth or to have it de facto stolen by the government.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The case seems to be complicated and showing the scale of the PiS’ octopus, that feeds its tentacles into all aspect of the connections between business and a state. It also shows that this corruption scandal might be induced by a power struggle between prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who was not happy with having Chrzanowski as a chief of FSA, and chief of National Bank of Poland Adam Glapiński, member of Kaczyński’s inner circle.

There are also some interesting side stories to it. It has emerged from that recorded conversation, that Grzegorz Bierecki, PiS senator and chairman of the Public Finances and Budget Commission, and the very men, who orchestrated syphoning money out of SKOK system, tried to deposit 70 000 000 zł in one of Czarnecki’s banks. Czarnecki refused, suspecting that that money might be in fact those syphoned out of SKOK and reported it to FSA. Nothing came out of it, probably because Chrzanowski, a protégée of Glapiński and supported by Grzegorz Bielecki, soon after taking up his post at FSA sacked all people, who were investigating SKOK scandal.

Another aspect of the story is that after Czarnecki refused to employ Grzegorz Kowalczyk – the lawyer proposed to him by Chrzanowski, Kowalczyk ended up working for a bank belonging to one of the other Polish oligarchs, Zygmunt Solorz. In a strange coincidence, it was about this time, when Polsat, a TV station owned by Solorz, until recently considered to be one of the most neutral sources of information, begun to show a strange pro-government bias. Moreover, soon after Czarnecki went public with his accusations, the parliament voted in in the most urgent and chaotic (and not entirely legal) manner some amendments to the banking law, allowing that fallen banks can be taken over not only by government but also by other banks, thus making it possible for example for Solorz to take over Czarnecki’s financial empire.

Due to Glapiński’s connections to the scandal, the National Bank of Poland also fell into the spotlight. It had emerged, that it does not do so great either. It ended the year with 2 500 000 000 loss, and it’s gold reserved are also valued significantly less. OK, some of its financial failures can be blamed for the general economic situation, but nobody knew how it is possible that despite the reduction in the number of employees, it had spent over 9 000 000 zł more on salaries. Until it had emerged that in order to celebrate Poland’s centenary celebrations, the vast majority of its employees were given 6 000 zł of “circumstantial bonus”. Adam Glapiński is nice not only to his own employees, though. It had emerged, that he recommended 30 years old Kacper Kamiński for a cosy job in World Bank in Washington. Kacper Kamiński’s dad, Mariusz, is a chief coordinator of secret services – you might remember him as the guy, who had been sentenced in the court of the first instance for a significant jail time for abusing his position during PiS’s previous time in power. But he was so important for PiS, that president Duda pardoned him without even waiting for the final verdict, thus breaking constitution.

Kacper’s mom has also been employed by Glapiński – she is a chief of one of the departments in the Polish National Bank. Mariusz Kamiński refutes all accusations of nepotism, threatening to sue anyone who makes such suggestions. I don’t want to be sued, so I just stick to the facts here:

  • Marek Chrzanowski, Glapiński’s man, is accused of one of the biggest corruptions acts in Polish history.
  • The investigation is then supervised by the chief of special services Mariusz Kamiński, who’s family members either work for Glapiński or have been recommended for a cosy job by him.
  • Marek Chrzanowski was in Singapore when the shit hit the fan. He is ordered back to Poland but he is not arrested at the airport. Instead, he goes to his office and spends significant time there. Special service agents enter his office to search it and seize some documents few hours after he left. His house has been searched even later.
  • For comparison: a man accused of dressing Lech Kaczyński’s statue in a T-shirt with the word “constitution” on it had his house raided by the police the next morning just after 6 am.

As Antoni Macierewicz would say: “coincidence? I don’t think so…”

But while Financial Services Authority and anti-corruption services might be involved in some criminal activities, fear not. There are still some people in Poland who do their job properly. Here is a story to make you feel better:

It’s an evening in a small town in northern Poland. A garage is about to close. The owner had closed the office and is already heading home. Then, two ladies in a car enter the yard, begging for help: they are about to go for the long journey and some lights in their vehicle are not working properly. Luckily, some of the mechanics haven’t left yet. One of them agreed to help damsels in distress. He found the fault in one of the lights and burned bulb in the other. The garage does not sell bulbs, but he happened to have the one that was needed in his own car. The ladies are extremely grateful and ask “how much do we owe you?”. “I don’t know” – says the mechanic – “give me a tenner and we are square”.

Suddenly: plot twist: the ladies are in fact agents of the fiscal service. It was a provocation. The mechanic was dragged to the court by the tax office. The judge found that while he was technically guilty of minor tax offence, he was simply being nice and tried to help, so refrained from sentencing him. The tax office appealed, then lost again, then appealed again. And now, do you want to hear something funny? This very tax office is a proud holder of the title “Entrepreneur friendly institution”.

But I don’t blame tax clerks for being so desperate to seal every smallest gap through which the budget loses money. The government has expenses. For example Beata Szydło’s salary. Nobody knows what her duties are, there is even no written document laying out what her deputy-prime minister job involves, yet she has a decent salary, bonuses, and travels everywhere (well, mostly to her home) in a column of armoured limos, crashing them occasionally.

Antoni Macierewicz pet project of part-time soldiers turned out to be extremely expensive as well: an average soldier from territorial army costs 135 000 zł per year, over twice as much as a regular full-time soldier. Even special forces operative costs the army just under 100 000 zł.

The police officers guard the private home of deputy interior minister Jarosław Zieliński for nearly a three years now. That still does not makes him feel important enough, so, during public meetings, he orders some of them to dress in black suits and wear dark glasses and pretend that they are his bodyguards.

There was also a curious case of starosta of Kolbuszów, who lost his job, which allowed him to claim his redundancy pay (estimated to be several dozens thousands złoty), only to be appointed back two days later. This time he is a working pensioner, so he will receive not only his salary but also a pension. But the guy, who replaced him had no reason to complain either – despite being on the job only for one day, he received 15 000 zł of redundancy pay as well.

I at least hope that regional director of environmental protection, who had been sacked, will also receive some redundancy pay. As after pointing out environmental risk related to PiS flagship project of digging the shipping canal to Elbląg, there is no chance she is ever getting her job back…

And so it is. All those frills of PiS have to be financed from the taxes paid by ordinary Poles. And yet, it is often not enough. Passengers of the state-controlled LOT Polish Airlines were asked to chip in in order to pay Chinese mechanic for fixing a defect in their plane. But don’t worry, we can afford this. Poland is a land of great opportunities, where everyone can make a fortune. Look at this guy, interviewed by the journalist from Money.pl: in his youth, he was distributing leaflets and now his wealth is estimated at around 4.5 billion! If he could do it, you can do it too. Although, to be frank, being the heir of one of the richest Polish oligarchs like he is could help. Those are golden times for those, who can find the opportunities. You just need to be optimistic. Perhaps prices of nearly everything go up (electricity is expected to cost even 60% more next year!), but were there ever times when one could buy a bank for 1 zł?


This piece was written for Britske Listy
Photo: Public Domain via piviso.com

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