Top opposition party official detained over corruption scandal

Stanisław Gawłowski, secretary general of the Civic Platform (PO) party. Photo: PAP/Marcin Bielecki

Polish parliament consented to the arrest of opposition party secretary general accused of accepting bribes for bid rigging and lucrative jobs.

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On Thursday, the lower house of Polish Parliament accepted the prosecutor’s request for the arrest of Stanisław Gawłowski, secretary general of Poland’s largest opposition party Civic Platform (PO), who now faces charges of corruption.

Mr Gawłowski was later officially detained by Poland’s Central Anti-corruption Bureau due to fears that he may collude with other suspects, even though Mr Gawłowski appeared at the prosecutor’s office earlier along with his attorney in order to give evidence.

Following Mr Gawłowski’s arrest, his attorney said that the former deputy minister was being held illegally, citing procedural irregularities. He also went on to comment on the political aspect of the arrest, alleging that it was “a response of the authoritarian state” triggered by “panic caused by sliding polls”.

Stanisław Gawłowski is accused of accepting bribes of at least EUR 41,000 in cash as well as two luxury timepieces valued at almost EUR 6,000 during the period when he served as deputy Environment Minister in the coalition government formed by the Civic Platform and Polish People’s Party (PSL).

Most of the corrupt practices are said to pertain to a wide-ranging bid rigging scandal involving the construction of water engineering structures in western Poland. The total value of the rigged tender proceedings is estimated at nearly EUR 36 million, with more than 60 individuals already facing charges.

The luxury watches, on the other hand, are said to have formed a “gift of gratitude” from the deputy director of Poland’s Institute of Meteorology, which remained under Mr Gawłowski’s supervision. Mr Gawłowski allegedly told the deputy director that such a lucrative job “was not for free”; he was later instructed to purchase the expensive timepieces by e-mail.

In addition, Mr Gawłowski is also accused of disclosure of confidential information and plagiarism. The press also reported that Mr Gawłowski may have accepted illegal campaign financing in 2011.

Reports have recently surfaced that the politician may have acquired a luxury apartment in Croatia from another individual involved in the corruption scandal. It is believed the transaction was not concluded on commercial basis and may have been a veiled form of bribery. The apartment is formally registered to the accused politician’s relatives.

Mr Gawłowski waived his immunity back in January. Nevertheless, parliamentary consent was still required for his arrest.

Stanisław Gawłowski himself denies all charges and has on one occasion remarked that he would become a “political prisoner” if sentenced.

Civic Platform leader Grzegorz Schetyna called Mr Gawłowski’s arrest a proof that the opposition is being “hunted” and that they “would not be destroyed”. He described the charges against his party’s secretary general as absurd and said that those who signed the arrest warrant “should be aware of the consequences which awaited them”.