The EU Parliamentary Committee for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Commission on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs recently adopted a new package to combat money laundering in the European Union. The project consists of a directive and a regulation. It is hoped that the European Union's new project on anti-money laundering will strengthen the detection and prevention of such offences in Poland.
The Polish political scene was recently rocked by the infamous wire-tapping scandal, which brought leading politicians under the harsh scrutiny of public opinion. The controversies around the case serve as a vivid reminder that the point where business intersects with politics is a fertile breeding ground for both white collar crime and abuse of the authority granted to those responsible for fighting it.
Issues related to white collar crime have recently attracted mass media attention in Poland. Due to a recent agreement between the minister of internal affairs, the minister of justice and the general prosecutor, the topic is of increasing interest. Discussion has particularly focused on new types of white collar crime and the best preventative measures to fight such crime.
The minister of internal affairs, the minister of finance and the general prosecutor recently signed an agreement on the prevention and combating of economic fraud and white collar crime. The main aim is to introduce comprehensive steps for combating tax fraud, but plans are also being made to reduce cross-border crime effectively and to address the issues resulting from the trade of fuel and excise products.
The prosecutor's office is in need of urgent reform, particularly in light of recent controversies that have undermined citizens' confidence in the state and its institutions. To this end, a new governmental bill on prosecution has been prepared. However, contrary to expectations, the new bill does not introduce radical changes to the organisation and management of prosecution.
Following an unprecedented outcome in a recent case in which 10 defendants accused of money laundering were acquitted due to a lack of documentary evidence, the importance of the role of court experts in criminal proceedings has been reassessed. The case fell apart after the first expert's opinion was deemed unreliable. It is hoped that draft legislation recently released in this regard will clarify matters.
An entirely new Code of Criminal Procedure will come into effect in Poland shortly. One of the main changes will be the implementation of the adversarial trial system principle. Once the new code comes into force, prosecutors will be required to prepare thoroughly for cases and invoke and defend their evidence skilfully before the court, rather than to conduct the investigation.
The president has called for an urgent reform of the structure of the prosecution services, appealing to both Parliament and the government. In view of the fundamental reform of the Polish criminal procedure, which has also been proposed, reform of the prosecution services would allow prosecutors to focus on their function as public accusers, rather than further perpetuating an outdated Stalinist model.
Parliament is shortly expected to issue its support for fundamental changes to criminal procedure in Poland. In addition, the prime minister and the minister of the interior recently announced a reform to the structure of special services. As a result of these amendments, the prosecution of financial crime is expected to change radically in the near future - hopefully for the better.
The Court of Appeal in Warsaw recently rendered a landmark judgment in the fight to control the actions of state agencies and services in corruption cases. In its oral reasons for the judgment, the court found that although the accused had accepted a bribe from Central Anti-corruption Bureau officials, the evidence accumulated by the bureau was not collected in accordance with the provisions of law.
Recent media reports indicate that property secured by the prosecution authorities in a highly publicised investigation has been encumbered by the suspects in such a way that even after a potential conviction has been rendered, its sale by a court enforcement officer will be questionable. This update offers basic guidelines on how injured parties can succeed with their claims in cases where the authorities cannot help.
The European Commission recently blocked the payment of more than PLN3.5 billion for the construction of three road sections, following allegations of fraud by numerous contractors. Concerns focused around a claim of collusion by 10 contractors, working in cooperation with the director of the Warsaw branch of the General Directorate for the Construction of Roads and Highways.
The head of the Internal Security Agency (ISA) recently resigned his position in opposition to government proposals for reform of the special services. Under government plans, the ISA is to be deprived of its right to conduct investigations. Combating white collar crime would instead be dealt with by the Central Anti-corruption Bureau, which focuses on corruption issues, and the Central Bureau of Investigation of the Police.
A precedent-setting judgment was recently rendered in the case of a famous heart surgeon accused of corruption. He has been given a one-year suspended sentence and a fine. Given the relative lightness of the sentence, it has been argued that in directing the entire power of the state against one man and the sensitive area of transplant surgery, the Central Anti-corruption Bureau's approach was unjustified.
In Poland, every president of a regional court must maintain a list of court experts, in which those specialising in a particular field must be entered. However, after an entry has been added, there is no control of the experts' skills or actions and individuals' knowledge is often not updated for a number of years. In a rapidly changing economy, their opinions may be incorrect and have the potential to do more harm than good.
There has recently been much discussion in Poland of the Amber Gold affair, a typical financial pyramid (or Ponzi) scheme, to which several thousand people fell victim. During the course of the dispute, a number of deficiencies in the judicial system came to light. The attorney general has had to explain the activities of subordinate institutions before Parliament and the role of the Prosecutor's Office has been discussed.
The Appellate Prosecutor's Office recently announced that the former director of the IT Projects Centre, Andrzej M, who was suspected of taking the highest bribes in case history for rigging tenders for the computerisation of government authorities, has been released from custody. He has been granted the status of 'small crown witness', which provides for an extraordinary mitigation of punishment.
The Central Anti-corruption Bureau is becoming increasingly skilled at tracing corruption links within the IT sector. However, will prosecuting authorities be given access to the results of global companies' internal proceedings and will they be allowed to use data from international IT companies provided to foreign law enforcement authorities? Recent developments in this area may contribute to changes to Polish anti-corruption legislation.
The Ministry of Justice recently announced the simplification of the penal law system with respect to businesses, as well as the expansion of the scope of economic freedom in Poland. At present, more than 70 legal acts regulate criminal liability of persons involved in business operations in Poland. It is hoped that the ministry's plans will put an end to irrational penal repressions which prevent innovation in Poland.
A recent investigation into corruption in the IT sector, which started with the arrest of the former head of computerisation in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration several months ago, has recently begun to take on a wider dimension. Officially, no answers have yet been given as to the latest results of the investigation, but a number of legal and practical questions have arisen.