Home of Poland’s former justice minister raided and four people detained

The homes of former justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro and other figures linked to his right-wing Sovereign Poland (Suwerenna Polska) party have been raided today on the orders of prosecutors.

Four unnamed individuals have also been detained as part of an investigation into alleged abuses in the disbursement of funds by the ministry under Ziobro’s leadership.

Nieoficjalnie: służby w domu Ziobry i innych polityków. Zatrzymanie czterech osób  https://t.co/l4gDxRiVBU

— Wojciech Mazurkiewicz (@otoWojciech) March 26, 2024

This morning, Patryk Jaki – who is acting leader of Sovereign Poland while Ziobro is undergoing hospital treatment for cancer – announced that the authorities had “broken into Ziobro’s house on the orders of Tusk and Bodnar’s neo-prosecutors”.

The latter is a reference to Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his justice minister, Adam Bodnar, whom Sovereign Poland accuse of illegitimately replacing prosecutors appointed under the former Law and Justice (PiS) government, which Sovereign Poland was part of.

Jaki also confirmed that raids had taken place at the homes of former deputy justice ministers Michał Woś and Marcin Romanowski, both members of Sovereign Poland, as well as another of the party’s MPs, Dariusz Matecki.

A lawyer for Romanowski accused prosecutors and the Internal Security Agency (ABW), which conducted the search, of violating his client’s parliamentary immunity by carrying out the raid and seizing “devices that contain legally protected secrets”.

Od godz. 6 rano ABW wspólnie z prokuratorem dokonywali również przeszukania mieszkania posła na Sejm RP @MarRomanowski. Wspólnie z Klientem zwróciliśmy uwagę, że jest to rażące immunitetu parlamentarnego, bowiem nastąpiło to bez wymaganej zgody Sejmu.

Zgodnie z opinią… https://t.co/XsNcOhobo7

— Bartosz Lewandowski (@BartoszLewand20) March 26, 2024

Jaki noted that the raids were in connection with grants totalling around 100 million zloty (€23.2 million) made by the justice ministry when it was led by Ziobro to a foundation run by a priest, Michał Olszewski. The money was to be used to build a centre for helping victims of crime.

Last year, the president of the construction firm building the centre was arrested on embezzlement charges relating to the project. This year, various media outlets reported other alleged doubts and irregulations relating to the planned centre, and also claimed that Olszewski is a friend of Ziobro.

After Tusk’s government took office in December, the justice ministry announced that it had suspended payments to Olszewski’s foundation from its Justice Fund.

Olszewski himself had denied any wrongdoing and the Polish Episcopal Conference (KEP), the central organ of the Catholic Church in Poland, has condemned the “grossly unfair media attacks” against him.

Chciał budować imperium medialne na wzór o. Rydzyka. Dostał 100 mln zł z Funduszu Sprawiedliwości https://t.co/6ptOivZ3PM pic.twitter.com/bdGM4DuF3p

— Money.pl (@Money_pl) January 17, 2024

Shortly after Jaki’s announcement this morning, the National Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that investigators looking into the Justice Fund had ordered “searches in various places around the country…to secure evidence, including documentation regarding the Justice Fund”.

The spokesman for Poland’s security services coordinator, also announced that searches had taken place at “several dozen locations…as part of a multi-faceted investigation regarding the abuse of powers and failure to fulfil duties by public officials”.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, Przemysław Nowak, later confirmed to broadcaster TVN that four people have been detained in relation to the case, though he did not identify them.

Na polecenie prokuratorów z zespołu śledczego ds. Funduszu Sprawiedliwości przeprowadzane są dziś przeszukania w różnych miejscach na terenie kraju.
Czynności nadal trwają. Ich celem jest zabezpieczanie dowodów, w tym między innymi dokumentacji dotyczącej FS.

— Prokuratura (@PK_GOV_PL) March 26, 2024

The Justice Fund was created by the justice ministry in 2012, at a time when Tusk was previously prime minister. It was intended to assist victims of crime and help rehabilitate criminals.

However, when Ziobro headed the ministry from 2015 to 2023, he was accused of using the fund for political purposes. Grants from it were often given in districts where members of his party were standing for elections, notes news website Wirtualna Polska.

After the current Tusk government came to power, a special commission was established to investigate the disbursement of money from the Justice Fund under the previous government.

The justice ministry acted “in violation of basic principles of public spending”, allowing funds to become a “corruption-generating mechanism”, the state auditor has found.

It says 280m zloty was misspent and has notified prosecutors of suspected crimes https://t.co/AY4NcHtIZv

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 30, 2021

In his statement today, however, Jaki accused the new authorities of using “gangster methods” against its opponents and of investigating the Justice Fund “because only leftist organisations are allowed to receive money”.

The head of PiS’s parliamentary caucus, Mariusz Błasczak, condemned the “invasion of the homes of parliamentarians, including the terminally ill Zbigniew Ziobro”. He said it was another example of the government “threatening freedom”.

But interior minister Marcin Kierwiński defended prosecutors’ actions, saying that they are a “clear signal that the Polish state is acting and there is no longer a ‘caste with impunity’. Whoever committed a crime will be held accountable for it. It’s a simple rule”.

Dzisiejsza akcja prokuratury i służb to jasny sygnał, że polskie państwo działa. I nie ma już „kasty bezkarnych”. Kto popełnił przestępstwo, ten będzie za nie odpowiadał. To prosta zasada.

— Marcin Kierwiński (@MKierwinski) March 26, 2024

Notes from Poland is run by a small editorial team and published by an independent, non-profit foundation that is funded through donations from our readers. We cannot do what we do without your support.

Main image credit: KPRM (under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 PL)

Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign PolicyPOLITICO EuropeEUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

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