Former Polish minister arrested after cash-for-visas scandal

A former Polish deputy foreign minister has been arrested on charges of speeding up visa applications in return for illicit payments, the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) reported on Wednesday

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk

Former Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk was arrested based on the prosecutor’s decision after CBA agents searched his apartment to find physical evidence that could be significant in the ongoing preliminary proceedings.

The court imposed a non-custodial preventive measure on the politician in the form of bail of 100,000 zloty (€23,000). So far, nine people have been arrested in the investigation concerning the visa scandal.

The arrest of Wawrzyk comes amid the new government’s drive to hold those it accuses of wrongdoing during the previous administration to account. However, the deputy minister in question had been dismissed by the previous conservative Law and Justice (PiS) administration and the agency’s proceedings against him opened. 

“Preparatory proceedings concern, among others, making promises to provide financial benefits in exchange for intermediation in matters related to obtaining residence permits, as well as unlawfully exerting influence on the course of issuing the permits,” the CBA said in a statement

The Polish Press Agency (PAP) cited prosecutors as saying that the accused could face up to 10 years in prison and that Wawrzyk had denied the charges against him.

Wawrzyk’s lawyer said his client had “expressed his willingness to clarify all the circumstances” of the case. He also admitted that his initial refusal to testify stemmed solely from the “immense stress directly associated with today’s activities.”

After the visa scandal hit the newspapers in August last year and Wawrzyk was dismissed, he claimed that he had been betrayed by one of his aides, who was reported to have taken just over €100,000 in illicit payments. Wawrzyk was also hospitalized after a suicide attempt. 

Poland’s former PiS government put migration at the heart of its campaign ahead of the October 2023 elections, but the cash-for-visas scandal undermined its efforts to portray itself as the party that could keep Poland’s borders secure; the opposition at the time, led by Donald Tusk, also claimed that the government had illegally let in hundreds of thousands of migrants.

However, an initial investigation revealed that less than 300 illegal visas had been issued. The irregularities occurred for visas issued in the UAE, Taiwan, India, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Qatar. 

A parliamentary committee will initiate its investigation of the scandal on February 9. 

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