Sunday, August 31, 2008

Facebook and Youtube Banned For Polish Police

Poland’s national police headquarters has banned officers from using a popular social networking site similar to Facebook because they were spending too much time using it, a newspaper said Monday.

“Like many firms, we decided the site is not essential for our employees to fulfill their professional duties,” the Dziennik daily quoted police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski as saying.

An internal investigation had shown police officers were often using Nasza Klasa, or ‘our class’, for idle chit-chat instead of working, the paper said.

They will still have access to the site after their working day ends. The site will also remain available for officers trying to track down offenders over the Internet, Dziennik said.

Some other Polish state agencies have also blocked access to websites such as YouTube to ensure their workers concentrate on their duties, the paper added.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Top officials at agriculture agency arrested in corruption probe

The Central Anti-corruption Bureau (CBA) detained two high-ranking officials at the Agency for Agriculture Restructuring and Modernization (ARiMR) on suspicion of taking bribes and financial kickbacks.

The CBA detained Jaroslaw G., the director of the office of the president of ARiMR Dariusz Wojtaszek, accusing him of soliciting bribes. Wojtaszek has suspended Jaroslaw G. for the duration of the investigation. The CBA also detained Zbigniew G., an ARiMR official from Gdansk and Gabriel J., a representative of a “company controlling farms which receive EU subsidies.”

ARiMR is the agency responsible for distributing EU subsidies to Polish farmers and is the largest such agency of its kind in Europe. Polish farmers have applied for nearly PLN 10 bln in EU subsidies this year.

The Regional Prosecutor in Warsaw ordered a three-month arrest for Gabriel J., but Jaroslaw G. was released on his own recognizance.

The CBA has been conducting an investigation for more than six months and more arrests are probable.

The daily Gazeta Wyborcza reports, citing unnamed sources, that the arrested ARiMR officials tried to sign a deal, bypassing a public tender, with a stock exchange-listed company to verify the accuracy of farmers’ subsidy applications, as required by EU law. This year, ARiMR was to spend about PLN 86 mln on the verification process.

Wyborcza also reports that, on Wednesday, a close associate of Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki (PSL), Przemyslaw Litwiniuk, tendered his resignation. It is unclear what Litwiniuk’s role in this matter is, but it is widely believed that Litwiniuk was Sawicki’s hand-chosen successor for the presidency of ARiMR.

Friday, August 29, 2008

U.S., Canadian Investors Ask European Union to Impose $183-Million in Damages on Poland

Investment companies, Elia Inc., and its sister company Renaissance Trust Inc, of Dunmore, Pennsylvania, and Dessaport International Corporation Inc. of Halifax, Nova Scotia, have filed a formal complaint to the European Union about Poland's confiscatory treatment of their Gdansk-based joint stock company, EuroPort Inc Poland.

The investors lodged the complaint with the European Commission's Directorate General for Competition, alleging EuroPort has suffered losses totaling $183-million as a result of actions by the Port of Gdansk Authority (ZMPG), and Poland's Ministry of the Treasury, owner of 85 percent of ZMPG's shares.

EuroPort was building a modern deepwater grain terminal in the Port of Gdansk, at an estimated cost of $76-million, to facilitate the import and export of bulk agricultural products to and from Poland and its neighboring countries in Central Europe.

The project, backed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Royal Bank of Canada, had been approved by the ZMPG and the Polish Government in 1995.

Construction began in late 1998 and was half-way completed by August 2002, when a new Board of Directors took over control of the state-controlled ZMPG. Shortly thereafter, ZMPG's managing directors began obstructing EuroPort's completion, according to the complaint, and ultimately succeeded in stalling the project. Expenditures to date total $59 million.

This account is part of the complaint to the European Commission -- as is the assertion that ZMPG's board of directors, dominated by post-Communists, the complaint alleges, was associated with "a powerful group of business persons and politicians who have had extraordinary control over what transpires in their territory even to the extent of influencing the local courts."

Hostile actions documented by the American and Canadian investors in their complaint to the European Commission include repeated illegal attempts by ZMPG, to nullify their 25-year lease on the pier and adjacent land, signed in 1995.

The American and Canadian investors allege those illegal acts constitute an attempt to evict them without compensation and eliminate EuroPort from the market.

Discriminatory and hostile actions directed at EuroPort, including intimidation by armed agents, prevented the investors from securing additional financing needed to complete their project, according to the complaint. Moreover, arbitrarily created administrative obstacles have frustrated EuroPort's repeated attempts to reach a fair settlement of their compensation claims with ZMPG and the Government of Poland.

Interventions on EuroPort's behalf by the American and Canadian embassies in Warsaw have been futile -- as were the reconciliation hearings in the Court of Arbitration of the Polish Chamber of Commerce.

Local courts in Gdansk have repeatedly refused to hear EuroPort's pleas for redress. The grain terminal remains unfinished. EuroPort has lost close to $200 million and efforts of its American and Canadian owners to find a solution in Poland continue to be stonewalled.

"The owners of EuroPort and their advisors believe their complaint to the European Commission," says their formal brief to Brussels, "that in order to have a fair settlement of the situation, authorities outside Poland ... must participate and fully examine the evidence."

Since 2003, EuroPort has testified before two arbitration hearings in Warsaw, instigated an investigation by the Prosecutor's Office in Gdansk, appealed to the Anti-Corruption Bureau in Warsaw, and made numerous approaches to the Ministry of the Treasury through the American and Canadian embassies. All these efforts have met with hostile indifference, rejection or inaction on the part of Polish authorities.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Homesick for Poland: Migrants' dreams in tatters

Life has been getting harder for many of the thousands of Poles in Britain, who suffer alarming levels of poverty, depression and suicide.

Mariusz Krasucki arrived in the UK from Poland in 2004. Aged 25, he had grand dreams of making a new life, with well-paid work in the booming UK economy; sending money home, and saving to set up his own business. Four years later those dreams lie in pieces, shattered by dead-end jobs and ever increasing bills.

"It has been lonely, and sometimes it is hard. England seemed like a relatively stable country, but now the price of things is going up and we have to work harder just to keep going," said Mr Krasucki.

He is just one of hundreds of thousands of Poles now living in hardship in Britain. Rising costs of food and fuel, the credit crunch and increasing unemployment have all taken their toll on the 800,000-strong Polish community, many of whom are in low-wage jobs.

Polish organisations are reporting rising levels of suicide, depression, abortion and poverty. Unreleased figures from the Polish embassy in the UK reveal that as many as one in five of the 250 Poles who died in Britain last year took their own lives.

The fate of 22-year-old Pawal Lipinski illustrates the growing difficulties Poles face. After he was found to have taken his own life near his rented room in Bedford, police discovered he had packed his bags and bought a ticket back to Poland. Like many migrants, Mr Lipinski had felt trapped in an impossible situation – desperately unhappy in England, but under pressure from family to send back much-needed money.

The value of the Polish zloty has risen 17 per cent since the country's accession to the EU in 2004, meaning that the hundreds of thousands of UK-based Poles sending money home are now contributing much less in real terms.

One result is that fewer workers see Britain as an attractive place to come. Home Office figures released last week revealed that levels of work-related migration to the UK from the eight Eastern and Central European countries had fallen to its lowest level since 2004. A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research concluded that almost half of Eastern European migrants to the UK since 2004 have already left.

Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski is calling for the Polish government to improve support services for its citizens who have moved to the UK. "So many Poles came to the UK, the Polish government needs to do more. They have a responsibility to protect their citizens," said Mr Kawczynski. "I want to make sure that the Polish government realises there are a lot of citizens here and they need to make sure their investments in the embassy and consulate are appropriate."

"Depression is a big problem for Poles living in Britain," Robert Szaniawski, press attache at the Polish embassy, acknowledged. "We try to support them somehow, but there are no special services."

Eva Zandman, 27: 'I've been tremendously affected by rising prices'

I'm on the minimum wage, and I've been tremendously affected by the rising food prices and gas bills. I'm not looking for huge money. I just want enough to last until the end of the month. I found it hard to get a job at first, and have mostly been working in care homes. I'm a trained physiotherapist. It can be lonely when you go to a new place. There are days when I think about my family, about the fact they are far away. I came over to England in 2004, and since then I've called the Samaritans. They were helpful, but if my English wasn't so good I wouldn't have been able to do that.

Mariusz Krasucki, 29: 'I have a degree in journalism, but have to work as a driver'

It has been lonely. It was difficult to make friends, because of the language and the cultural barriers. English people have a different sense of humour and sometimes they would make jokes and I would be offended. For the past two years, I have worked as a driver. I am by myself all day long, and sometimes it is depressing. I have a degree in journalism, and am overqualified to be a driver – it is easy, nothing to be proud of. I couldn't make enough money to live on in Poland.

Ela Meller, 25: 'At one point there were 10 of us living in three bedrooms'

When I came over from Poland in 2002 I was just 19. I ran out of money so quickly because my Polish money was worth so little. At one point there were 10 of us living in three bedrooms. After two years of waitressing I started to get a bit down – I thought I'd still be doing it aged 75. It happens to lots of Polish people. I began to study bookkeeping part-time while still working. It was hard – sometimes I worked 90-hour weeks. I became qualified and now work for the 'Big Issue' accounts department. In Poland it was way too expensive to study and I couldn't get a job. I come from quite a poor family, and however hard I have to work here I'm pleased that at least I can support myself.

Anna Sajnog, 25: 'I came over hoping to have a better life but it isn't better'

My husband Alex, my one-year-old baby and I all have to survive on 53 a week. If it wasn't for handouts from the Red Cross and the church charity, the Boaz trust, I don't know what we would do. They help us by giving us food parcels and helping with the rent. I work as a cleaner, but I do only a few hours a week so I hardly earn anything. It is so difficult. I want do be able to give my daughter things, but we have no spare money at all. I came over from Poland hoping that I would be able to have a better life, but it isn't any better. If I were still single I would return, but my husband is Sudanese and cannot leave the UK.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Poles continue to lose faith of brighter future

More than half of Poles think that Poland is heading in the wrong direction, says a new opinion poll.

According to the newest opinion poll by the TNS OBOP research centre, 52 percent of Poles are pessimistic about Poland's situation, while 34 percent are optimistic.

Pessimists are growing in number – from 50 to 52 percent from July - and optimists are in retreat - a fall from 36 to 34 percent. The number of respondents with no opinion on the matter remained constant (14 percent).

Significantly more Poles (61 percent) are convinced that the Polish economy is developing (compared to 59 percent in July), but only six percent think that the development is dynamic, while 55 percent see it as sluggish.

Despite a relatively booming economy, one third of respondents think that Poland's economy is ‘in crisis’; 27 percent thought of it’s condition ‘serious’.

The poll shows that more than one in three respondents (34 percent) expect that their financial situation will improve within the next three years, while almost the same amount (33 percent) expect that living conditions in Poland will not change during that period. A little less, 28 percent, think that their life style will take a turn for the worse.

The poll was conducted on 7-11 August 2008, on a representative group of 1005 citizens of Poland over 15 years of age.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Drunk Polish official expelled from Olympic Village

Deputy President of the Polish Athletics Federation (PZLA) Jerzy Sudola has been found sleeping on one of the lawns of the Olympic Village in Beijing and immediately sent back to Poland.

Sudola, who was drunk, has been threatened by the federation’s president, Irena Szewinska, that he will face ‘serious consequences’.

The Deputy President was lying on the law with his name visible on the accreditation on his breast.

President Szewinska has not made any decision on the case as yet and refused to comment further. She said she will deal with the drunken official after she returns to Poland.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer vodka advertising craze

Vodka producers are splashing out on advertising campaigns in an attempt to dramatically boost sales in the summer season.

The biggest vodka producing companies in the country are spending even several million zlotys more on their summer campaigns than at other times throughout the year.

"In the summer the fight for consumers is all about the resorts,” says Grzegorz Chojnacki, president of Nemiroff Polska, the distributor of the Ukrainian Nemiroff Vodka.

The strategy for most Polish vodka producers is to constantly mark their presence in places that draw most tourists, especially at the seaside. One vodka manufacturer paid around one million zlotys (300,000 euros) for being the sole drink caterer in several clubs at the Polish seaside.

The crucial problem that vodka producers are facing in the summer is that there is a tendency for Poles to be drinking more beer when the temperatures rise considerably and vodka sales are approximately 20 percent lower than in the other months of the year.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Polish runner criticises Polish Athletics Association

Olympic athlete Marek Plawgo has accused the Polish athletics association of choosing the Beijing 2008 squad on the basis of an ‘old boys network’ and not on merit.

“Let the management of the Polish Track and Field Athletic Association run in the 4x400-metre hurdles relay final themselves,” says Polish runner Marek Plawgo.

Marek Plawgo, sixth in the Olympic 400-metre hurdles final, has accused the Management of the Polish Track and Field Athletic Association of favouritism.

In Marek Plawgo’s view, the team’s coach, not the Athletic Association Management should appoint the Olympic line-up.

“It was a group of perhaps 23 who appointed the Olympic team representatives. The coach, Jozef Lisowski, who is in charge of the relay race, had a different idea. The team should be composed of athletes who are healthy and in good physical shape. But the old boys network and favouritism won over the coach’s logic. My question is: what is Mr. Lisowski supposed to be responsible for? Let the Management of the Polish Track and Field Athletic Association run in the 4x400-metre hurdles relay final themselves”, Plawgo said on TVN24 in fury.

According to Plawgo, there was still time to reverse the wrong decisions made before the Beijing Olympics. The runner said that in the summer, when it became apparent that the top four or five Polish track and field athletes were either unwell of in an overall poor physical shape, the coach, Jozef Lisowski wanted to appoint other athletes who were healthy and in better form, but the Association’s management refused.

It is still unknown if Marek Plawgo, currently the best Polish hurdle race runner, will appear in the 4x400-metre hurdles relay final to be held on August 22.

He says that Daniel Dabrowski, one of the four Polish athletes appointed for the relay final, “would lose against hurdle runners even if he was doing a straight run”.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Poland to offer asylum, money to Iraqis

Poland's prime minister says his country will offer asylum or a $40,000 payment to any Iraqi working for its military or police in Iraq.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his government on Tuesday approved the plan. Poland has decided to withdraw its troops from Iraq this October. There is a fear that Iraqis who worked for the U.S. allies could become the target of attacks.

Tusk said that the plan covers Iraqi translators and other workers. He did not say how many people the scheme would cover.

They can choose between the right to live in Poland with government assistance or have $40,000 per person if they stay in Iraq or settle in a third country.

Poland contributed troops for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and now has 900 soldiers there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Poland (of course) has one of the fastest growing alcohol markets

According to the latest report published by Nielsen, Poland is one of the top five countries in the world when it comes to recording alcohol sales growth
Expenditures on alcohol are only growing faster in Ukraine, Venezuela, Argentina and Russia. The report stated that the sales of alcohol grew in Poland last year by 15 percent on average, with sales of vodka going up by 17 percent, reaching zl.8 billion in value. One of the reasons for the growing spending on alcohol is its increasing price.

According to data from Euromonitor International, further growth in sales should be expected in the future. The forecasts state that on average a Pole will spend euro 103 annually on alcohol within five years, an increase of a third on today's spending.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Poles become less optimistic

A recent opinion poll shows that an increasing number of Poles are dissatisfied by what's going on in their country.

According to the CBOS research centre, Poles are most critical of Poland's political situation - only one in ten respondents said that they are satisfied with it.

Only one third of respondents (33 percent, a fall of three percent since July) think that Poland is heading in a good direction, while almost half of respondents (48 percent) think otherwise.

The CBOS poll states that the forecasts about the development of Poland's general situation next year are a little worse than last month and thus the worst since August 2007.

The pessimists slightly outnumber the optimists - 22 percent think that the situation will worsen next year, while 20 percent count on it getting better. The majority, 47 percent, think that everything will stay as it is.

Although parliament is in recess, the
ountry's political situation is assessed very critically. Almost half of respondents (46 percent, an increase of 6 percent since July) considers what is happening on the political scene as bad. Only ten percent of Poles are satisfied. CBOS says that the last time Poles had such a negative opinion about Polish politics was just before last year's parliamentary elections.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Allegations of Child Rape Rile Clinic Staff

Prosecutors are investigating allegations that an 8-year old boy was raped by two 13-year old fellow patients at Lodz’s Babinski psychiatric hospital. The story, splashed over the front cover of the Super Express tabloid on Aug. 4, has prompted anger from the hospital’s management, who say journalists have twisted the facts of the incident. But the parents of 8-year-old Patryk say they were informed by doctors that he had been attacked sexually and beaten by other patients in the ward and prosecutors are looking into both charges against the attackers and hospital staff.

“The doctor told us that someone had sex with Patryk,” his mother said. “She advised us to say nothing about the incident, because then people will single him out (as the boy who was raped). At the end she ordered an HIV test for him.” The hospital’s director, however, says they only have evidence that Patryk was “touched” by other boys both with and without his clothes on. They say media reports that he was raped in the ward’s showers are not borne out by the facts.

“Doctors talk to the younger patients on a daily basis and he [Patryk] at no point told us in words that something like that had happened,” director Zbigniew _ucki told Dziennik L?dzki.

“At the point in time when the rape was supposed to have taken place, there were 16 patients on the ward and none of them were bathing without the help of a member of hospital staff. The doctor and psychiatrist in charge were told by other patients that the 13-year-old may have touched the intimate parts of the 8-year-old boy.” The charges against the older boys have been passed to a family court, and prosecutors say they are looking into whether hospital staff showed serious neglect of duty in the incident. They say the investigation has been held up briefly by doctors declining to reveal details of conversations with patients.

Prosecutors will order the opening of medical records, clearing the way for the investigation to move on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Daily Mail removes anti-Polish content

The Federation of Poles in Great Britain has won a battle with British Daily Mail which has removed “offensive” stories.

The British tabloid Daily Mail has given in to the pressure applied to the newspaper by the Federation of Poles in Great Britain and removed from its website the content that the Polish community on the British Isles regarded as offensive, informs the Radio Information Agency (IAR).

The Polish organisation mainly criticised Daily Mail for publishing texts about Polish economic immigrants in the UK. According to members of the Federation, the tabloid’s publications provoked negative feelings and animosity towards Poles living and working in Britain.

The daily had rejected the accusations for a long time and continued to voice negative opinions about the Polish community in Britain.

But as a result of a complaint filed in March by the Federation of Poles with a British committee specialising in investigating content published in printed media, a round of negotiations was held and Daily Mail gave in to the Federation’s demands.

In today’s issue the tabloid printed a letter from the Federation’s Spokesman, Wiktor Moszczysnki stressing the significant contribution that Poles have made to both the Polish and British economies.

“There have been hundreds of cases of hate crime against Poles in this country recorded in the last 2 years, some leading to death or permanent injury, and we would not want these incidents to be encouraged by potentially inflammatory newspaper stories or headlines”, reads the letter.

The Federation of Poles was established in 1946, when the British Government formally withdrew recognition of the Polish Government in Exile formed after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Twins separated at birth sue state in Poland

Two families are demanding compensation from the state treasury in Warsaw after twins were separated at birth by hospital staff 20 years ago and two children given to the wrong parents.

Kasia and Nina were born in December 1983 in a Warsaw hospital. But due to a mix up during bathing time, another baby, Edyta was mistaken by nurses at the Medical Academy for Nina and given back to the twins parents along with Kasia.

For 16 years the two families lives unaware that they had the wrong babies. Edyta believed she had a twin sister, and Nina was happy in the belief that she was an only child.

It was only in 2000 that the mistake was uncovered and the two twins were reunited once again.

Both families are suing the state for separating the families. But scientists are interested in the very rare occurrence of two twins being separated at birth and could give psychologists vital new understanding of the development of humans and the influence of both nature and nurture on our personalities, intelligence and other related issues.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Polish lobbyist Marek Dochnal has been arrested by the Internal Security Agency

Polish lobbyist Marek Dochnal has been arrested by the Internal Security Agency.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski has confirmed that Marek Dochnal was arrested at the request of the Organised Crime Department from the National Prosecutor’s Office in Katowice, southern Poland, Thursday evening, reports the Radio Information Agency (IAR).

An announcement released by the Internal Security Agency (ABW) informs that Dochnal was arrested as a result of information obtained by ABW that the lobbyist, who has been banned from leaving Poland because of his involvement in alleged corruption scandals, was planning to flee the country using a false identity.

ABW has denied allegations of Marek Dochnal’s legal counsel, Jacek Gutkowski that his client was arrested when he was dining with his family in a restaurant in the Polish seaside resort of Sopot, “ostentatiously and with the use of force”.

ABW press officer, Major Katarzyna Koniecpolska-Wroblewska told media that the arrest, “was made in a professional and discrete manner, in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Proceedings”.

It is thought that the lobbyist was arrested for his involvement in an attempt to sell a group of Polish energy companies, the so-called G-8, to Russians. Allegedly, in order to do that, Dochanl engaged his old contacts among Polish politicians.

Lobbyist and businessman Marek Dochnal was first arrested in 2004 on charges of bribing a former MP Andrzej Peczak (Democratic Left Alliance - SLD) and money laundering. He was released from detention in February 2008 due to a lack of hard evidence, but was banned from leaving the country.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Four options await the Ekstraklasa

The Polish Ekstraklasa should have started a fortnight ago, but thanks to on-going corruption investigations, not a single game has been played.

This will change shortly, as on Wednesday the two clubs still in limbo (Korona Kielce and Zaglebie Lubin) will find out what league they will be playing in for the 2008/09 season.

There are four possible outcomes for Poland’s top league from the Tribunal meetings that will occur on Wednesday.

The first option is that both Korona Kielce and Zaglebie Lubin will be cleared of any wrong doings in the corruption scandal that has rocked Polish soccer this year.

Both teams, which are currently listed as second league teams but have not played any such matches, will be brought back up to the Ekstraklasa and play in the top-flight.

This seems to be the most probable outcome when looking at popular opinions throughout the country.

The only problem with this is that two second division clubs, Piast Gliwice and Arka Gdynia, have already been promised and guaranteed spots in the top-flight.

If Korona and Zaglebie are reinstated into the Ekstraklasa, the league would increase from 16 teams to 18 teams, something that would cost the league approximately 20 million zloty (6.25 million Euros).

The second option is that both teams stay down in the second division. This would mean that all schedules stay the same, there are 16 teams in the Ekstraklasa, and that these last two weeks of postponing the season were unnecessary.

Option three is that one team is sent up, and the other kept down, creating 17 teams in Poland’s top two division (each club would have a bi-week in the schedule).

The final option is that there is no decision and that the start of the league is once again postponed to a later date, resulting in another weekend without top-flight football in Poland.

Question is whether the individuals in-charge realize that the domestic league’s reputation has taken a severe hit in recent months and that further postponement would only hurt that reputation even more.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Polish Train Rams Into Bridge Near Prague; At Least 6 Dead

A Polish train carrying about 400 passengers went off track and hit a bridge 210 miles from Prague. The accident resulted to the death of at least six people.

Most of the young rail travelers were on their way to attend a music festival in Pardubice, Czech Republic. Polish and Czech rescue teams rushed to the accident site to help the survivors. The injured was estimated at 100 people.

The international train left Krakow in Poland, headed for Prague, according to police spokeswoman Miroslavva Michalkova-Salkova. She added the number of dead is still tentative as there are reports fatalities has climbed to 10.

The Polish train was running at 87 miles (140 km) per hour when it hit a portion of a road bridge which fell on the track.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk were reportedly on their way to the accident site.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Drunken fools...

Roll On

A road worker building a new roundabout in the western town of Wschowa may have set a new standard for drunk driving when he was arrested with 15 times the legal blood alcohol level while driving a heavy road roller. The police were alerted by local residents, who saw the machine moving about erratically. When detained, the driver had trouble standing up straight.

Car Streaking

In a related story, Police in the northern town of Izbica Kujawska on Monday stopped a driver who not only had 10 times the legal blood alcohol level but was also completely naked. The witness who reported the incident to the authorities attempted to stop the naturist driver, but the 35-year-old reacted aggressively, knocking out his windshield with a rock. He started running away, but was quickly apprehended by officers who had by that time arrived on the scene.

Plastic Manhood

And in one final drunk story, A 41-year-old Olsztyn native was fined 150 zlotys after he was caught showing off a plastic penis to the passengers of a Warsaw-Krak?w train last week. The perpetrator had to sober up before being presented with the fine. He could offer no logical explanation for his actions.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Baby Abuse Cases Shock Country

One man is being charged with murder and another woman investigated for neglect after two incidents where young babies were pushed or fell out of apartment windows in Warsaw’s Praga district last week.

Zbigniew W., a resident of Warsaw’s famously rough ul. Stalowa in the eastern Praga district, admitted to “throwing something out of the window but did not know what”, while drunk on Monday, July 21.

His infant daughter, born just hours earlier, died in hospital the same day after being found lying on the ground outside the family’s flat.

“The suspect has admitted to the charge [of murder],” a spokesman for city prosecutors told reporters on Wednesday.

Both parents and the girl’s grandmother were detained under the influence of alcohol at the scene, and the mother was taken to hospital for treatment. The family has a second older child who has previously been removed from the home.

The second case also related to a Warsaw woman, who was also drunk when she left her five-year-old daughter alone in the home on Wednesday. The girl is in hospital after falling out of the second floor flat.

Child abuse and parental neglect has become a generally bigger issue in Poland in recent years, most memorably after a shocking incident that made international headlines where a family kept the bodies of several smothered infants in a barrel in their home.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Save Ziobro

Opposition Law and Justice MPs brought parliament’s rules commission to a standstill this week in a protest against attempts to charge PiS former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro with improperly distributing state secrets.

Prosecutors say Ziobro, the iron man of the last government and a possible candidate for president or prime minister at the next elections, passed party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski files on the investigation against the “fuel mafia” – which has implicated a number of politicians, mostly on the left of the spectrum. Ziobro claims Kaczynski was a member of the national security agency and hence entitled to the documents at the time – their opponents say the aim was just to search for political sleaze on opposition figures for the government’s use.

Either way, the national news was packed with Wednesday’s chaotic scenes in parliament. More than 100 PiS MPs turned up, saying they had questions for the committee. This effectively stopped the committee from voting to remove Ziobro’s legal immunity as an MP, and government officials described it as a return to the sit-in tactics of hard left farmers leader Andrzej Lepper, which blocked parliament from working in 2001 and 2002. Never the one to turn the other cheek, Kaczynski compared the ruling coalition’s tactics to those used by communists to crack down on the democratic opposition during martial law.

“The spirit of [communist strongman Czeslaw] Kiszczak has returned to the Sejm,” he told reporters.

The row is likely to continue when Parliament returns from its five-week holiday in September.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Stadium Chief Accused

The plans for construction of a national stadium in central Warsaw took a hit this week with a scandal developing around the head of the government agency behind the project.

Prosecutors are investigating charges by Dziennik daily that Michal Borowski, previously Warsaw’s chief city architect, lied on property declarations while working in his previous post. The paper say he hid vested interests in the form of shares in a series of architectural and construction sector companies based in Sweden.

Daily Rzeczpospolita also claims Borowski was at the center of a political cabal which was formed to funnel money out to allies of the last Law and Justice government.

Borowski denies the charges and says he will await the results of the investigation.

“I started working in the mayor’s office on August 18, 2003, and resigned from the boards of these companies on August 21,” he told a news conference.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Government divided over nepotism

Deputy PM Waldemar Pawlak (pictured) and anticorruption minister Julia Pitera disagree over the significance of nepotism in Polish public life.

"One should be glad when children show similar interests to their parents and want to want to follow in their footsteps,” Waldemar Pawlak told Polish Radio this morning.

Pawlak said that nobody should be ostracised for being related to a political party member.

Deputy PM Waldemar Pawlak’s Peasants Party (PSL) was mentioned in the recently published report by minister in charge of fighting corruption, Julia Pitera’s report on the subject.

Julia Pitera,also on Polish Radio Three Monday morning, said that the practice among civil servants in Poland - favouring relatives or friends by giving them jobs over better qualified staff - was a complex problem, particularly at the local government level.

Minister Pitera assured Polish Radio listeners that the government was doing its best to curb nepotism and ensure that the Polish state administration is run in an honest and professional manner.

Julia Pitera said it was often very difficult to detect instances of Polish politicians awarding lucrative positions to their family members or friends, as there were hundreds of local-level institutions in Poland. Pitera acknowledged that those institutions were often submitted to tremendous pressure from influential individuals to employ those designated by them.

She added that she rejected the arguments voiced in the public debate on nepotism by Deputy Premier and Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak, who said that there was nothing wrong in giving employment to family members.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Corrupt journalist attempts suicide in church

Wojciech Sumlinski, a journalist suspected of corruption, cut his wrists in a Warsaw church on Wednesday.

At around 10 am, the journalist, surrounded by a pool of blood, was found in the church. An ambulance was called immediately and the man was transported to one of Warsaw's hospitals. His condition is serious, but his life is not in danger.

Yesterday, the district court in Warsaw decided to allow the arrest of Smulinski in connection with corruption charges. The journalist then sent a letter, dated 28 July 2008, to newspapers in which he claimed his innocence.

It is said that this is not the first time he tried to commit suicide.

Wojciech Sumlinski is an investigative journalist working for Polish dailies and weeklies.

Friday, August 08, 2008

German nudists accuse Polish tourists of voyeurism

German nudists have accused Polish beachgoers of staring at them as they sunbathe as nature intended.

Germans and Poles are going to war over a nudist beach on the Polish-German border on the Baltic Sea beach, reports British The Sun tabloid.

Germans nudists have been fuming over the fact that since a fence on the two nations' border was removed in 2007, following Poland’s accession to the Schengen borderless zone, Polish bathers stroll into German territory near the Polish town of Swinoujscie, north-western Poland, encroaching on the privacy of naked German sunbathers.

"You feel like an ape in the zoo. The Poles come with their binoculars, stare and swear at us,” one German naturist told The Sun.

"It’s a nudist beach. It’s terrible that Poles come over, dressed, and stare,” another nude beachgoer from Germany has complained to the British tabloid.

But the Poles have hit back and tell their neighbours “to cover up”.

“It’s horrible, we would never bathe naked, we are Catholic,” said a Polish beachgoer from Swinoujscie.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sports Minister calls football association “con artists”

Sports Minister has accused the Polish Football Association (PZPN) of deceiving the nation and called the present situation ‘a scandal’.

Sports Minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki, who commented on the postponement of PZPN’s general meeting until October on Polish Radio Three Thursday morning, said there was a group of con artists operating within PZPN who deceived Polish football fans.

Minister Drzewiecki said he was ashamed of the management of PZPN and pointed out that the amendment to the Football Association’s Statute changing the date of the general meeting was made on July 28, just before the decision was formally made public.

Miroslaw Drzewiecki called “scandalous” the situation when the first league’s matches are postponed for two weeks and it is not yet clear which teams will be allowed to participate.

He added that if the current PZPN Chairman Michal Listkiewicz - who had promised to step down following accusations of turning a blind eye to the rampant corruption in Polish football and the procedure of setting up match results for bribes - insisted on remaining in his position for another term he would refuse to cooperate with him.

The minister warned that the Polish Olympic Committee had the power to take over the association by appointing a curator at PZPN.

Minister Drzewiecki stressed that it was the government’s strong intention to completely rid Polish football of corruption.

In July this year, the Sports Minister suggested to the PZPN Chairman Michal Listkiewicz he resign due to the corruption scandals that shook the Polish football scene last year. Listkiewicz then promised he would step down by September 14. Recently, however, PZPN Chairman announced that he was considering staying in the job, because UEFA wanted so.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Polish Football Federation pushes back date for new elections in wake of match-fixing scandal

The Polish Football Federation's governing board has pushed back the date of its resignation from Sept. 14 to Oct. 30 despite public pressure to step down in the wake of a match-fixing scandal.

The federation said Tuesday it was forced to delay the new elections after a Polish court rejected the organization's new bylaws that would have allowed it to shorten the time frame for calling elections from 90 to 45 days.

In April, the federation's governing board announced it would step down on Sept. 14, three months ahead of schedule. That decision was meant to pave the way for a vote on new leadership in the fallout of a widening corruption scandal that has rocked Polish soccer and caused a public outcry.

Prosecutors in Wroclaw launched an investigation in 2005 into corruption in Polish soccer. So far, authorities have charged about 120 people — including federation members, coaches, referees, players and club officials — with rigging matches in the top domestic leagues. Twenty-nine clubs have been implicated.

Meanwhile, Poland's top domestic league announced a further delay to the start of it season due to the corruption scandal.

The league postponed the first round of games last week, and league president Andrzej Rusko was quoted by PAP news agency on Tuesday as saying he hopes for play to instead start on Aug. 9.

The decision comes less than a week after a disputed ruling by the country's highest sports arbitration court that could result in two more teams being added to the league.

Earlier this year, the Polish federation relegated Widzew Lodz to the second tier after it was found guilty of match fixing.

Last week, the Polish Olympic Committee's arbitration court ruled that the punishment was too severe and that the statute of limitations had expired on the offense.

That ruling has opened the door for Korona Kielce and Zaglebie Lubin, which the federation also relegated to the second tier for match-fixing, to appeal their demotion and seek reinstatement. The Polish Olympic Committee hopes to rule on those appeals this week.

The postponed first-round and second-round games would be played later during the season.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Poland: State-owned military supplier faces corruption allegations

WBJ has learned that a subsidiary of state-owned military equipment producer Bumar may have improperly hired a construction firm for a renovation project, and that subcontractors were left unpaid.

A construction project for a new zl.70-million headquarters facility for military optical-equipment producer Przemyslowe Centrum Optyki (PCO), a member of the state-owned military equipment giant Bumar group, has led to allegations of corruption after subcontractors claimed that they were not paid for their work.
One of the developers involved in the project, Warmet, was responsible for renovating several of the older buildings within the complex. Subcontractors hired by Warmet claim that they were not fully paid, and are now holding PCO responsible.

Why Warmet?

Warmet is a very small company, consisting of just a few people, according to a source close to the case. Documents obtained by WBJ indicate that the firm has not submitted financial statements to the National Court Registry (KRS) since 2004. The company’s bank accounts have been blocked and it has previously been sued a number of times for not paying its subcontractors, Jaroslaw Kowalczyk, president of Kowalczyk Incaso, a vindication company that is representing the subcontractors, told WBJ.
All of this begs the question as to why PCO decided on Warmet to carry out the renovation.

Tender required

Public companies such as PCO are legally required to hold a tender for construction projects worth more than zl.5 million. However, Kowalczyk claims that a tender was never held. "Instead, the project was divided into several smaller parts, and each part had its own selection process," he told WBJ.

When asked for specifics about the selection process, Ryszard Kardasz, the president of PCO, pleaded ignorance. "I do not know any details," he said, claiming that PCO’s technical director and a member of the board, Robert Wrona, was in charge of the process. "If you want any details, call Wrona, because he is responsible for this," he said.

According to credible information obtained by WBJ, Mr. Wrona is accused of having a close relationship with Warmet executives and of intentionally granting Warmet the project without a tender.

WBJ attempted to contact Mr. Wrona several times, but was told he was unavailable for comment.

Costly mistake

Whatever the reason, PCO’s failure to thoroughly investigate Warmet may cost them. According to Polish construction law, a project’s investor is responsible for payment for all work on the construction site, including work carried out by subcontractors.

Records show that PCO regularly paid Warmet for the work being carried out. Why Warmet’s subcontractors never got their share is unclear.

According to Kowalczyk, Kardasz claims that PCO has stopped payment to Warmet.

PCO, Warmet and Kowalczyk Incaso met at the end of July in an effort to try to hammer out a resolution, but none was found. The companies are expected to meet again in the coming days.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Former Justice Minister fled Warsaw to save immunity?

Former Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has told Polish Radio that he failed to appear before the Parliamentary Committee for Regulations and MP Matters to avoid losing immunity.

Zbigniew Ziobro (Law and Justice) has denied that he fled Warsaw on Wednesday to cause disruption to the meting of the Regulations Committee that gathered on Wednesday to discuss steps to be taken to rid him of his MP’s mandate and hold him responsible for disclosing secret documents to his party chairman, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, in 2006.

Ziobro told Polish Radio Three on Friday morning that the committee, presided by the ruling Civic Platform, convened the gathering on Wednesday morning even though they knew he would not be able to attend it, as he had previously planned a press conference in Krakow, southern Poland, at that time.

Ziobro said he had informed the Regulations Committee that he could attend the meeting in the afternoon on the same day, but his political opponents from PO decided to go ahead with the meeting agenda to debate ridding him of the immunity in his absence.

Former Justice Minister said that the behaviour of his fellow party members, who attended the meeting and left the conference room ostentatiously after a row broke out when the chairman of the meeting, Stefan Niesiolowski (PO) decided to proceed without Ziobro’s presence, was justified.

Zbigniew Ziobro appealed to PO MPs for a public apology for insulting Polish voters and breaching the opposition’s rights.

Ziobro also declared that he would voluntarily give up his MP’s immunity provided he was given a chance to present his point of view before the Parliament.

The Speaker of the Lower House Bronislaw Komorowski admitted on Polish Radio One on Friday morning that the rules regulating the work of the Parliamentary Committees should be amended, explaining that the row between the PiS and PO MPs during the Regulation Committee’s gathering on Wednesday was unprecedented in the Polish Parliamentary history.

Komorowski stressed however, that the Committee gathering was not meant to be a “trap” for the former Justice Minister, because Ziobro left Warsaw after the Regulations Committee had gathered and “he knew he was fleeing Warsaw".

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Polish footballers attack policemen

Former members of the Polish national football team, Piotr Swierczewski and Radoslaw Majdan, have spent a night in jail after attacking policemen while under the influence of alcohol.

At around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning the police were called to one of the pensions in the seaside town of Mileno, where the footballers were having a wild party. Piotr Swierczewski allegedly beat up the policemen and threatened to kill them, say reports. Radoslaw Majdan also took part in the brawl.

In order to restrain the violent men the police had to call a back-up team.

The public prosecutor’s office has already questioned the policemen who were attacked, each suffering facial injuries, but as the footballers were still drunk last night they will be interrogated later today.

The violent football players are likely to be charged with assault and battery and threatening to kill. They are facing 10 years in prison.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Polish politicians don’t deserve holidays, poll says

As politicians start their month long summer break, a poll finds that a majority of Poles believe that they are not worthy of any time off at all. The

The survey by the TBS OBOP pollster for the TVP Wiadomosci news programme reveals that 64 percent of Poles believe that politicians don’t deserve summer vacations.

The study also asked if respondents are proud of their politicians. More than a half (52 percent) said that there are no politicians in Poland to be proud of.

Only 2 percent said that they are proud of the majority of politicians and 39 percent admitted that only some parliamentarians make them feel good.

Though national politicians have earned the electorate’s contempt, local politicians have a better image. Twenty eight percent appreciate the work performed by local authorities though only one in five gave the thumbs up to the work of the government (17 percent) or president (16 percent). Just seven percent are satisfied with what parliament does.

As many as 17 percent of respondents, however, said that they don’t appreciate any of these institutions.

Friday, August 01, 2008

State-owned firm embroiled in shady dealings
WBJ has learned that state-owned military equipment producer PCO used suspicious methods

A construction project for a gleaming new zl.70-million headquarters facility for military optical-equipment producer Przemyslowe Centrum Optyki (PCO), a member of the state-owned military equipment giant Bumar group, has led to allegations of corruption and mismanagement after subcontractors claimed that they were never paid for their work.

Two main players were involved in the project - Mirbud, which constructed the company's new headquarters, and Warmet, which was responsible for renovating several of the older buildings within the complex. Subcontractors hired by Warmet claim that they were never paid, and are now holding PCO responsible.

An investigation by WBJ has shown that Warmet was a strange choice for the large project. It is an extremely small company, consisting of just five people, according to a source close to the case. Additionally, documents obtained by WBJ indicate that the firm has not submitted financial statements to the National Court Registry (KRS) since 2004.

Why Warmet?

How Warmet came to be the lead contractor for the renovation portion of the project is something of a mystery. Public companies are legally required to grant construction projects worth more than zl.5 million through a tender process, but there is no evidence to indicate that any such tender was ever held. Several of the subcontractors in the case claim that PCO's technical director and a member of the board, Robert Wrona, has a close relationship with Warmet executives.

In initial conversations with WBJ, both PCO and Mirbud claimed that Mirbud was the general contractor for the entire project, and that Warmet was only a subcontractor, hired not by PCO but by Mirbud.

However, WBJ has learned that PCO came to an agreement with Warmet itself for the renovation services. Ryszard Kardasz, the president of PCO, admitted as much when confronted with the accusations, telling WBJ that "Warmet won the competition because it quoted the lowest price." Kardasz referred to PCO's selection process for Warmet numerous times, calling it a "competition" but never using the term "tender."

"Instead [of a tender], what happened was that the project was divided into several smaller parts, and each part had its own selection process," said Jaroslaw Kowalczyk, president of Kowalczyk Incaso, a vindication company that is representing the subcontractors.

According to Kowalczyk, Warmet's bank accounts have been blocked and it has previously been sued a number of times for not paying its subcontractors.

"It looks like PCO did not check any of Warmet's financial details, otherwise they would not have signed a contract with [them]," said Kowalczyk.

When asked for specifics about the selection process, PCO's Kardasz pleaded ignorance, and placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of Wrona. "If you want any details, call Wrona, because he is responsible for this," he said. "I do not know any details. The first time I was informed about the case was when Kowalczyk Incaso sent me the case description and payment requests," he added.

WBJ attempted to contact Mr. Wrona, but was told he was unavailable for comment.

Did PCO know?

Now that ignorance is coming back to haunt PCO, as Warmet's subcontractors are threatening to take PCO to court. But records show that PCO long ago became suspicious that Warmet was not paying the firms it hired. Records show that in May of last year, PCO asked Warmet for confirmation that it had paid its subcontractors.

Kardasz told WBJ that the firm had taken action against Warmet. "Warmet did not fulfill its contract with its subcontractors. That was why we forced them to leave the building site in August 2007 and Mirbud finished the construction," said Kardasz.

However, legal documents submitted by the subcontractors claim that Warmet was the main contractor throughout the entire project, until its completion in December 2007.

Warmet did sign an agreement to slightly reduce its role in the project in December 2007, after Kowalczyk's vindication company had contacted PCO with the complaints. Still, there is no evidence that Warmet's involvement altogether ceased.

Show me the money

Komvix, one of those subcontractors hired by Warmet, claims that it is owed as much as zl.1 million, and says that it has been unable to pay its own subcontractors because it has not received payment.

Records show that PCO regularly paid Warmet for the work being carried out. Why Warmet's subcontractors never got their share is unclear.

However, the subcontractors say PCO is ultimately responsible for the late payments since it chose Warmet to complete the project. According to Polish construction law, a project's investor is responsible for payment for all work on the construction site, including work carried out by subcontractors.

Taking responsibility

Still, in conversations with WBJ, Kardasz maintained that his company was not responsible for Warmet's delinquencies.

"[PCO is] not responsible. Warmet did not report that it had any subcontractor ... on paper," Kardasz told WBJ.

But documents provided by Komvix show that PCO knew about Komvix, since the three companies (PCO, Warmet and Komvix) held meetings to discuss the project's progress every week. And a letter written by Wrona in July 2007 shows that he, at least, was aware that Warmet had hired Komvix, and that this information was indeed "on paper."

"For general renovations of buildings C, D and E, we have signed the contract with Warmet, which informed us in writing that the ... subcontractor is the company Komvix," Wrona wrote.

Moreover, in two prior phone conversations with Kowalczyk and in a letter written to Warmet dated September 21, 2007, Kardasz admitted that PCO felt obligated to take responsibility.

According to letters it sent to Warmet, PCO has decided to hold back Warmet's last payment of zl.804,829 until the whole case is resolved. But in talks with WBJ, Kardasz said the money PCO owed Warmet had all been paid.

PCO, Warmet and Kowalczyk Incaso are expected to meet today to try to hammer out a resolution. If none is found, PCO may be forced to pay Warmet's subcontractors, despite already paying Warmet.

The new PCO headquarters is due to open as scheduled on September 4 of this year.