Friday, August 14, 2009

In the spotlight: Lew Rywin

The Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) last week detained prominent Polish film producer Lew Rywin on a number of counts that, according to the media, could result a jail term of up to 10 years. Nine other people, including Rywin’s son, were detained as well.

Rywin, who helped produce films such as Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” and Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” was at the center of one of biggest corruption scandals in recent Polish history when he tried to solicit a $17.5 (zl.55.49) million bribe from Gazeta Wyborcza-publisher Agora to influence a media bill in the firm’s favor. In 2004 Rywin was sentenced to two years in prison but after serving 43 days he was temporarily released on health grounds. He returned to jail after an appeal was dismissed and was finally paroled in November 2006.

The latest detention, which was executed at the request of the Appeal Prosecutor’s Office in Lódz, is the result of a two-year investigation into alleged illegal activities, including the falsification of medical documentation in order to obstruct legal proceedings in criminal cases. The Appeal Prosecutor’s Office has already brought a number of charges against the 10 detainees, although the details of these charges have not yet been revealed to the public. A court in Lódz last Wednesday decided to arrest Rywin and the nine other detainees for three months.

A representative of the Appeal Prosecutor’s Office in Lódz told journalists there would certainly be more detentions in the case. Approximately 100 people, including several top lawyers, are now thought to have been involved in a far-reaching scheme that involved, among other things, the payment of bribes worth around zl.700,000 and falsification of medical documentation. These are alleged to have helped well-known Polish gangsters avoid arrest and jail.

As WBJ went to press, Rywin’s exact role in the scandal was not yet known but a number of Polish media outlets had reported that in 2005 he may have tried to offer a zl.210,000 bribe to doctors in order to secure a delay or otherwise influence his prison sentence on grounds of poor health.