Former UK Europe Minister throws weight behind entrepreneur′s campaign clear his name
A former senior UK government minister has thrown his weight behind a campaign to clear the name of entrepreneur Marek Kmetko who is locked in a bitter legal battle with the authorities in his native Poland
Thousands of Mr Kmetko’s 7,000-strong workforce face a bleak Christmas without jobs after recent raids by the Polish authoritiesled to the closure of his businesses. Some of the workers have been imprisoned and remain behind bars without being charged.
Mr Kmetko insists that the raids were ‘totally unjustified’ and part of a long-running campaign to discredit him and his business activities.
He has launched a high-profile drive to clear his name and reopen the businesses which were forced to temporarily close after the recent raids.
The case has attracted media publicity in Poland and may be taken up by the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee and the European Court of Human Rights.
His efforts have now received the backing of Denis MacShane, a former Europe Minister in the UK, who is also an internationall renowned expert on Eastern and Central European issues.
MacShane, who served in Tony Blair’s former administration, said Kmetko has been targeted for “confronting the full forces of the early post-communist and pre-democratic Poland.”
He said, “The message is clear. You can do business on our terms and if you pay off the right people.”
MacShane says he is “delighted” help the Pole clear his name and to get full compensation for the way legal systems have alleged been used to destroy his business to benefit competitors loyal to ruling political elites.
He praised Kmetko for creating jobs for Polish workers and helping Polish firms to grow.
He said,”Marek was employing 7,000 Polish workers and providing employees for more than 140 Polish firms.
“It was win-win economics. His employment agency helped Polish start-up businesses with a tailored supply of labour and 7,000 Poles who otherwise might have been without work were in paid employment.”
He adds, “Marek is a self-made businessman who keeps tight personal control over all aspects of his activity.
“He has suffered at the hands of politicians and other ‘black forces’ in Poland including threats of imprisonment and actual imprisonment.
“He re-located to Berlin and now to Switzerland out of fear for his personal security and that of his wife and daughter.”
MacShane went on, “This is not idle paranoia. He has seen those he worked with disappear and has been confronted with break-ins and interference with this communications even in Germany.
“The Polish authorities have accused him of money-laundering and it is often the case that a firm whose head office is in one country does have to move cash across currency borders.
“But it is worth stressing that a lengthy investigation by the Berlin police and relevant authorities cleared Marek.
“Instead they prefer to see 7,000 Poles without income and elderly Polish ladies taken and kept in prison as some kind of hostage.
“The recent raids, arrests and shut-down of his business happened just as Marek was launching a major law-suit in Polish courts against the state as he tries to get back the money he lost when he fell victim to political machinations in the earlier period of post-communist rule.
“He operates within the law. As owner of a legitimate properly registered tax-paying company in Berlin and a resident of Switzerland and owner of companies listed on the official Swiss business register he cannot afford to take any risks with his legal status.
“He remains proudly Polish, a patriot. He is someone who somewhere deep Polish state has decided he is an enemy of the ruling political elites. They tried to eliminate him using police raids and judicial measures in the 1990s.
“Now they are trying to destroy him with slander and innuendo carefully fed to the media.
“Marek does not care about lies printed in the press. He cares only for the 7,000 people he employs. He could retire tomorrow and live abroad on saving and investment income.
“But Poland is his country and he wants both justice and the chance to keep creating prosperity for Poles in Poland and to support the millions of Poles who now live and work outside of Poland, especially in other European countries.”
Meanwhile, Mr Kmetko's German-based business K.u.K International has expressed concern at the failure of the Polish authorities to reply to the firm's offer to begin payments of the claims by the Polish social insurance organisation, ZUS, that they are owed 62 million zlotys by the company’s Polish subsidiary.
K.u.K International is one of Europe's most dynamic employment and out-sourcing firms which employs people in Wroclaw and other Polish cities and helps more than 150 Polish firms with their human resources management.
A spokesman for K.u.K. International in Berlin, where the firm has its headquarters, said "We wrote to the Polish government on 21 November and made clear that K.u.K International is in full compliance with German tax law, and seeks to meet any obligations that its Polish subsidiary companies may have inadvertently incurred, and repay any monies legally owed to the Polish State.
"The letter proposed to begin immediate discussions concerning claims for payment of 62 million zlotys. Under Polish law, the government is required to reply to any letter from a Polish citizen within 30 days and this deadline expired on 21 December.
"We are puzzled at the apparent indifference of the Polish government to an offer to be paid 62 million zlotys and we hope that before Christmas someone somewhere in the Polish state apparatus contacts us so we can begin making arrangements for paying any outstanding monies," the K.u.K spokesperson added.
However, rather than accepting the offer of the German company, the spokesman said the Wroclaw authorities "appear to prefer to detain in prison without charge innocent employees" - managers of the Polish subsidiaries, including women with dependent children - and to "disrupt the salary payments of 7 000 workers and their families at the year end when they should normally be preparing to celebrate the New Year."
An international humans rights expert has suggested that the Wroclaw authorities’ actions may be in breach of Poland’s obligations under the European Treaties to protect the fundamental rights of citizens
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