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.