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Published in Blog
Friday, 18 July 2014 07:27

One Man Against a Monolith

One Man Against a Monolith
This is the story of struggle and survival in post-communist Europe. It is about one
man, Marek Kmetko. In England or France or Italy or Germany or the United States he
would be hailed as a business hero. With only his wits, his boundless energy, and his
strength in bulldozing through obstacles he has built up business after business that has
helped make Poland, his native country, richer.
He comes from Wroclaw which before 1939 was pait ofthe German Reich and
known as Breslaw.
Poles were not allowed economic or democratic freedoms under the Kaiser or the
Nazis. They were allowed to become bureaucrats and work in the police and judicial system
because their German overlords wanted to ensure that the Poles were kept forever subjugated
and respectful to hierarchy and to authority.
Kmetko, born in I952, grew up under the oppression of communist politics. In this
era, Poland was run by Poles but on behalf oftheir ultimate masters in the Kremlin. The
same bureaucracy oftax collectors, police and obedient judges and journalists made sure that
the Poles of Wroclaw did as they were told.
The arrival of Polish Solidarity — the mass trade union and national democratic
movement, NSZZ Solidarnosc - in I980 when Marek Kmetko was still in his twenties
changed everything. There were new openings but also new brutalities. The local
bureaucracy did not know where their future was to be found.
Quickly it became clear in the 1980s that communism was not going to last much
longer. Networks of economic actors interlinked with the local bureaucracy, police, media
and state apparatus were created.
Marek was outside this charmed circle getting ready for the end of communism. He
was seeking to create small business possibilities for himself and his wife. Market gardening,
refuse disposal, some small house building, anything that was possible in the dying days of
communism.
When at the end of 1989 a democratic parliament was elected and Poland had
sloughed off the outward appearances of communist bureaucracy to start its progress to the
community of democratic European nations in NATO and the European Union Marek
Kmetko assumed that his dynamic entrepreneurial energy would find not just a place but
some recognition and reward for turning Poland into a modern market economy.
Market economies are made by men not saints. They are about the hunger to create
and simultaneously make money not as an end in itself but as proof of achievement. The
author wants to see his book published, the pop star wants to see the stadium full of his fans,
the politician wants to get as many votes as possible, the editor wants as many readers as
exist and the businessman wants to fill his bank account with money. And to get to the top
corners are cut, risks are taken, and regulations are ingnored. In the words of the great British
entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin empire “I have never seen a rule
books which I have not broken.” Critics of Branson point to his early days when allegations
abounded about tax irregularities. Whatever the truth the British authorities preferred to seehis

dynamism and energy create jobs and wealth in Britain, first and foremost, and come to
agreements about tax and other payments in due course.
There is no doubt that Marek Kmetko was a rule breaker. He borrowed money and
bought a fleet of three hundred trucks in Germany and rode them like a conquering convoy of
the new single market Europe into Poland in order to transport goods backwards and
forwards between his native country and the rest of Europe.
He installed an office in Berlin but found quickly that back home in Poland, as in
southern Italy, unless the right payments were made, the right contacts were organised, the
right politicians and members of the judicial and tax bureaucracy were entertained and looked
after things could go wrong.
He was not confident in the new government of Poland even though it had illustrious
names from the era of solidarity in its ranks and at its head. These were important figures in
Polish history but they too had to make historic compromises within the state and with the
bureaucrats who under German rule or communist rule or now capitalist rule knew how to
keep their power and make sure they and their families were adequately rewarded.
Many obstacles were put in his place, accusations made and even moments of
detention and the despair of being placed in prison awaiting trials faced Marek Kmetko.
But he refused to give up. Yes he wanted to make money and yes he felt as many
successful businessmen who have made a good profit feel. He knew how to make money and
overcome obstacles.
His next venture was to open an employment agency. These are commonplace
especially in Great Britain and the United States so that one firm becomes the employer of
workers who are then allocated to smaller businesses who cease to bother themselves with
payroll bureaucracy or being responsible for the tax and social insurance ofthe employees.
One may question whether this is a good practice but it is one Tony Blair certainly
supported as Britain’s Labour Prime Minister when he fought to resist any rules from Europe
that might lessen the ability of employment and outsourcing agencies in Britain to carry on
their business. Rightly or wrongly, the ten years of Blair’s premiership in Britain saw the
longest period of economic growth and job creation in Britain’s post-war history. Why
should Poland be any different?
However, for the bureaucrat wanting to catch out an entrepreneur the fact that Kmetko
had his head office registered in Berlin and was living there with the full knowledge,
permission and approval ofthe German authorities was a suspicion in itself. In Britain, just
to stay with that parallel, there are plenty of American and European firms headquartered far
away from England which nonetheless are encouraged to carry out economic activity inside
the UK and are treated on the whole with fairness and the same respect that any British firm
would enjoy.
Instead of celebrating this dynamic entrepreneur the Polish judicial and tax authorities
in Wroclaw kept accusing him of breaking the law. They insisted that he was guilty of
money laundering. This because the money he earned from the hundreds of employees he
sent to work for different firms in Poland was put into a Polish bank and then transferred to a
2German bank. Kmetko had received serious threats of violence and even death from his
rivals and people who did not like his refusal to operate within the bureaucratic tax and
political system of networks in south-west Poland. He decided to live in Germany just to
have that little bit of extra protection. After all, in the 1990s he had befriended politicians
and TV journalists who had died under mysterious circumstances without any explanation.
He remembered from his brief time working with Polish communist security police just how
vicious and violent they could be if given orders from above and told their actions would be
covered by superiors.
Better not to take the risk and not place himself too obviously within the reach of any
enemies he might have in Poland.
But still the Polish tax police, which is notorious in Poland for taking a cut of 8 to
10% of any money it obtains from those found guilty of not paying their taxes, kept going for
him.
They opened one investigation accusing his wife of money laundering but in truth this
was just a political attack against him.
In September 2010 the Wroclaw Prosecutor’s Office asked the German police to
investigate Mr and Mrs Kmetko and their schoolgirl daughter for alleged money laundering.
The German police did as requested and ordered searches of all the Kmetko accounts
and paper held at the head office in Berlin. But they found nothing and wrote saying the case
had simply been discontinued. The Wroclaw State Prosecutor also dropped the case.
One might have thought that would have been the end ofthe matter. But inside the
Polish state system in Wroclaw there were officials who had Kmetko in their sights. There is
no explanation of why this should be the case. He is a robust corner-cutting businessman
seeking new ventures and like any businessman arranging his affairs so as to pay as little tax
as possible. But he knew that to operate in Poland he had to be within the law. As the
Wroclaw lawyer, Zbigniew Cieslak wrote, “the allegations had been orchestrated” against
Kmetko using communist era tax legislation of I966. The tax and prosecution authorities had
not obeyed the law, they had not sent the information as the law stipulated within the required
time to Kmetko saying what he owed and how he might pay it.
The highly respected law firm of Witold Modzelewski told Kmetko very clearly that
“he should not acknowledge the decision of the Wroclaw tax office as the decision has no
legal, nor administrative grounds. Should, however, the tax office be persistent in this matter,
it ought to present evidence other than orchestrated so far, that is tangible and solid.”
And as the Modzelewski law firm stated, “further illegal persistence” of the Wroclaw
tax office will only increase the damage caused to the firm.
So here by the start of 2013 Mr Kmetko and his firm based in Berlin had been
investigated by the Polish authorities and cleared. They had been investigated by the Berlin
judicial authorities and cleared. They had been told at the highest legal authority that there
was nothing that could be laid as a charge against them and on the contrary it was the Polish
Wroclaw tax office that had “orchestrated” false allegations against them.
3All of this over the years had cost Kmetko a great deal of money running into tens of
millions of euros, hundreds of millions of Zlotys. Like any aggrieved businessman who felt
the state was trying to force him out of business and that the tax police were behaving
illegally as they searched to get their share of any money that might be recovered he was
angry and said that the Polish state should compensate him. He was also bitter at how so
many politicians at a senior level had allowed this state of affairs to continue.
Every organisation, like the Council of Europe or Transparency International that has
investigated the Polish tax police system has agreed that it acts beyond the rules of normal
European Union law and order. Businessmen can be held in preventive detention for months
at a time without any charges laid so that their businesses are utterly destroyed while the
executives are rotting in prison. The object is very clear to force money out of businesses
whether legally or not and to ensure that the tax police get their own private cut.
There are certainly many businesses and individuals not paying all their tax in Poland
as they should but that is commonplace in other countries. But to the west of Poland it is not
a knee-j erk reflex action to throw such men into prison, close down their businesses so
neither they nor the state nor the tax police get any benefit at all when after months and
months the case is closed often without any judicial proceedings or convictions.
The Wroclaw authorities continued to insist to their colleagues in Berlin that improper
money laundering was taking place. But the accounts examined in German bank accounts
simply did not provide any evidence to that effect. He was a successful businessman and he
was being paid for the employees he was sending on an agency basis to many different firms
that required flexible employment contracts in Wroclaw and other towns in Poland.
The latest accusation was that Mr Kmetko and his Berlin holding company, K.u.K.
had failed to pay the social insurance contributions for the workers he had sent out to be
employed. The Polish authorities claimed he owed 62 million Zlotys — about €l 5 million.
There is some dispute as to whether the holding company in Berlin or the firms the workers
were being employed by in Poland should pay this money and there is little doubt that as with
much bigger companies like Amazon and Google which seek to avoid paying any tax on their
operations in the UK and other European countries Kmetko was never, like any businessman,
going to be in a big hurry to pay any outstanding taxes or social charges.
Nonetheless he made clear that he was willing to pay any owed amounts after
negotiation between the relevant authorities including the ZUS, the Polish National Insurance
system and his company. The office of the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, wrote early
in 2014 confirming that this offer had been received.
But this made no difference to the Wroclaw tax police and prosecuting authorities
who moved dramatically against Kmetko. They raided all his offices in Wroclaw and
elsewhere in Poland and arrested key executives they could lay their hands on there. Mr
Kmetko himself had prudently decided to stay living outside the reach of his enemies in
Poland and there was no ground for any warrant that could involve his arrest or detention and
extradition back to Poland. The companies’ operations came to a standstill as the managers
were held over Christmas and the New Year into the spring of 2014.
A lawyer from Berlin was despatched and a journalist from Brussels where there was
growing concern in European circles about the harassment of this Polish businessman. They
4arrived in Wroclaw but were not allowed to meet with those detained and were treated with
scant courtesy as foreigners by the Wroclaw prosecuting authorities even though the Berlin
lawyer comes from a distinguished German legal firm. This could be put down to bad
manners and a failure to observe the norms of legal operations within the European Union.
But the prosecution authorities in Wroclaw also seem to be bullies. One of the women they
arrested late in 2013 is Dagmara Natkaniec. She lives in Berlin with her fourteen year old
daughter, Sandra, who goes to a local German school. She works for Mr Kmetko but has no
executive responsibility or knowledge of his operations in Poland. Nonetheless she was
detained and her daughter has been without a mother for several months. She is willing to
post bail and report to the relevant police authorities and return to her duties as a mother but
the Wroclaw Prosecutor refuses this humanitarian gesture.
This has to be set in a wider context of reports coming in from many different sources
in Poland about the behaviour of the tax police and their denial of the normal rules of natural
justice. The New Zealand writer, John Borrell, who has been working as a businessman near
Gdansk has written a book, “The White Lake” which sets out many examples and there has
even been a motion picture film made exposing the Polish prosecution and tax police
authorities and how their practices and way ofthinking have changed little since the
communist era.
This is an unfinished story and the newly elected European Parliament will be asked
to look into the Kmetko case. There have been reports in international business magazines
and a very successful website set up which exposes how he has been abused and mistreated.
Now we will see what the next stages of this story tum out to be. One thing is certain, that
having survived the pressure of communist bureaucracy and then some of the more corrupt
and disreputable political-bureaucratic practices that were on display in Poland in the first
period after the end of communism in the 1990s Mr Kmetko is determined not to give in.
There is a wider interest at stake. The whole ofthe rest of Europe needs to see
Poland’s economy flourish and grow. Millions of Poles had to seek work in western
European countries and their arrival en masse because the business atmosphere in their own
country is so hostile to dynamic entrepreneurs has provoked great tension and resentment in
other EU member states whose citizens object to so many foreigners arriving and flooding the
labour market with cheaper workers. This has given rise to what the German Finance
Minister calls “fascism” in France and to a new xenophobic and anti-European political
movement in Britain that may yet succeed in organising a referendum which will take the UK
out of the EU.
The Polish authorities need to ensure that Poland stops being seen as the enemy of its
entrepreneurs. Of course taxes and social insurance must be paid but these are matters for
negotiation not for closing down whole businesses just in order to allow the tax police tolrake
in extra money that stays in their hands and isn’t given to the Polish people for genera

improvement of the quality of life.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 08 May 2014 11:00

Video from 1993

1) Please let me be with my  mummy again . . .


 

KERAM takes delivery of new fleet of trucks from MAN in Munich

Zdzislaw Kmetko was celebrated in March 1993 as a successful businessman who purchased and brought to Poland a new transport fleet for his road haulage business, KERAM. This film was shot by the private TV company Zwoltex.

 

 

One year later, the business was raided by the Polish police, and the assets of KERAM were seized by the Polish State.

What a difference one year makes in business

It is April 1994.
Keram is raided by the Polish police who arrive at the haulage depot without any search warrant or any documents and proceed to seize the vehicles owned by the company.
The owners Zdzislaw and Halina Kmetko are seen calling for the police to show their warrants and justifying their actions. The workers try to stop the heavily armed police, who are surprised to find the private TV film company Echo TV of Wroclaw filming the entire incident.


After this police raid, KERAM was closed down, and the 400 drivers working for the company lost their jobs. One worker was shot by the police. The Wroclaw TV Studio involved in filming was also forced into closure by the authorities with a loss of 300 jobs, and the owner survived an assault by unknown attackers.

Within weeks after the closure of his company KERAM, Zdzislaw Kmetko was imprisoned by the state, without any charges brought against him. Another Director of KERAM, Polish Member of the Seym, Henrik Michailak was found murdered by unknown assailants.

 

Published in On camera
Thursday, 08 May 2014 10:31

The Story

Once upon a time there was a young Pole. Let’s call him Marek. He was born under Communism. A good Catholic and keen on sports. He came of age during one of the most curious decades  - the 1980s – in Poland’s history.

The decade began with Poland a loyal member of the Soviet empire. Apart from a few brave individuals like Lech Walesa and Adam Michnik, most Poles had to find jobs with communist controlled institutions from local municipalities, the education system, or the police. He learnt Russian at school and angry with the corrupt political system he saw close up, he tried to start some business activity – within the limits permitted by the communist bureaucracy.

By the decade’s end Poland has organized the first democratic elections ever in the communist world. The Chinese are still waiting. A good man, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, became Prime Minister. Before Hungary opened its borders to allow East German tourists to cross into the West and before the Berlin Wall fell, Poland had escaped from communist dictatorship to the brave new world of democracy and a market economy.

But for our hero, the new world was not so welcoming to his desire to be an entrepreneur and a Polish businessmen bringing investment into Poland and creating jobs for Polish workers.

Prime Minister Mazowiecki was driven out of politics by a small clique of people linked to the charismatic Lech Walesa who became president of Poland in 1990 and unleashed a politico-economic-social dynamic which had many dark sides as well as helping to consolidate Poland’s future as a European Union democracy.

Marek was in his 30s and decided to take at face value the claims from President Walesa that Poland would join the rest of the rule-of-law democracies where politics and business were kept in separate categories.

He decided to go into the trucking business – the most important thing a market economy needs is transport systems to get goods to market – and imported 300 top-of-the-range lorries from Germany to operate them in Poland through his German company.

Polish TV News showed a proud Marek in Munich as he waited with Polish drivers to take the new MAN trucks back to Poland and help the Polish economy grow.

But he reckoned without the old style networks of communist control that still ran large sections of Polish bureaucracy, tax police and city councils.

They were corrupt under communism and were no less corrupt under capitalism. They wanted their cut and when they didn’t get under-the-table zlotys they had the tools – a compliant police force, legal officials who could find pretexts in the old communist penal code to take action, and a media that swapped communist conformity for sensationalist personalized attacks on anyone the new power-holders did not like.

Marek found his lorries taken from him by police without a warrant. A member of the Sejm (Poland’s Parliament) who championed his cause was found murdered shortly after he protested on Marek’s behalf.

A television journalist shot dramatic footage of the brutal raid on Marek’s business, including scenes of his brave wife trying to get an explanation from the police officer who looked with contempt on her and other workers with the same disdain on his face as he showed a few years earlier when beating up Polish Solidarity activists. A few months after shooting the film, the Italian owner of the independent TV channel was forced to leave Poland.

So Marek was now confronting the full forces of the early post-communist but pre-democratic Poland.  The message was clear. You can do business on our terms and if you pay off the right people.

For a new businessman, alone without a structure of  laws and business support in mature market economies, it was a frightening time.

But Marek was determined to create jobs for Polish workers and help grow Polish firms.

Two decades later, by now operating from Germany where he felt the legal system in place was a better guarantee of business security than the more volatile Poland where despite the efforts of successive Finance Ministers, the tax police operated as  a state within a state, as the tax police executives always took a substantial share of any reclaimed moneys, 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.

A word of caution at this stage in our narrative.  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.

This was 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 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 a lengthy investigation by the Berlin police and relevant authorities cleared Marek.

He has also been involved in a long-running legal dispute with the Polish state which he believes – with evidence and a sense of injustice on his side – took advantage of the chaotic and corrupt relations between former communist officials, criminal elements and politicians just anxious to get money to run party political campaigns after 1990.

Edward Lucas, is a distinguished British author journalist, currently the International Editor of The Economist. He says the worst mistake journalists like him who covered the end of communism made was not to investigate and expose the continuing role of communist era money and officials after 1990.

“The worst mistake was that we journalists were so busy celebrating the fall of communism in 1989 we did not ask hard questions about what was happening to the money and the people from the old regime. Where did the billions of dollars in the Communist Party money and secret-police slush funds disappear to in all the confusion. Who kept control of them? And to what purpose were they put?

“It was a hard story to write. Some of the people who knew the answers committed suicide in rather implausible ways… I wish  had followed the remarkable business careers of underworld figures with links to the city administration.” (European Voice  21 November 2013)

It was in that in this world of linkages between communist money, communist-turned-capitalist officials, hidden violence and a lack of transparent rule-of-law judiciary systems with a clear separation between politicians and private business that Marek tried to make his way.

What is surprising is that the system has failed so far to destroy him.

They have taken advantage of the fact that Marek has provisionally held on to some social security money that is owed to the Polish authorities for the 7,000 men and women he employs as a signal that he wants the Warsaw government to examine seriously the complaints he has against Polish officialdom in past years.

A state even with dubious elements operating within it cannot be dictated to by a single individual. But instead of opening a dialogue with Marek, the Polish authorities used the kind of brute force that General Jaruzelski deployed to crush Polish Soldarity.

Armed police, disguised and unidentifiable, raided Marek’s business premises and effectively shut down operations early in November 2013. Elderly people were dragged from their beds to be interrogated about their sons and daughters.

A  lady who worked for Marek in Switzerland and was visiting her family in Wroclaw was arrested and is still in detention, together with a few other managers, mostly women.

There was a time when the reputation of Poles was to be the most polite Europeans when it came to ladies. Not any longer as women have been targeted by authorities in Poland who are still seeking a state of permanent confrontation with Marek.

But the new Polish nomenklatura know they are on thin ground. They cannot issue an arrest warrant for Marek as their actions would be illegal in most EU states and in other European Economic Area countries like Switzerland.

Instead they prefer to see 7,000 Poles without income and elderly Polish ladies taken and kept in prison as some kind of hostage.

Marek is no saint. He is an aggressive corner-cutting buccaneer of a businessman searching for business opportunities where he can find them. If he can avoid paying money to the state he does so – what business does not?

But 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 who speaks no other language than that of Mickiewicz, Milosz and Pope John Paul II.  But someone, somewhere in the 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.Once upon a time there was a young Pole. Let’s call him Marek. He was born under Communism. A good Catholic and keen on sports. He came of age during one of the most curious decades  - the 1980s – in Poland’s history.

The decade began with Poland a loyal member of the Soviet empire. Apart from a few brave individuals like Lech Walesa and Adam Michnik, most Poles had to find jobs with communist controlled institutions from local municipalities, the education system, or the police. He learnt Russian at school and angry with the corrupt political system he saw close up, he tried to start some business activity – within the limits permitted by the communist bureaucracy.

By the decade’s end Poland has organized the first democratic elections ever in the communist world. The Chinese are still waiting. A good man, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, became Prime Minister. Before Hungary opened its borders to allow East German tourists to cross into the West and before the Berlin Wall fell, Poland had escaped from communist dictatorship to the brave new world of democracy and a market economy.

But for our hero, the new world was not so welcoming to his desire to be an entrepreneur and a Polish businessmen bringing investment into Poland and creating jobs for Polish workers.

Prime Minister Mazowiecki was driven out of politics by a small clique of people linked to the charismatic Lech Walesa who became president of Poland in 1990 and unleashed a politico-economic-social dynamic which had many dark sides as well as helping to consolidate Poland’s future as a European Union democracy.

Marek was in his 30s and decided to take at face value the claims from President Walesa that Poland would join the rest of the rule-of-law democracies where politics and business were kept in separate categories.

He decided to go into the trucking business – the most important thing a market economy needs is transport systems to get goods to market – and imported 300 top-of-the-range lorries from Germany to operate them in Poland through his German company.

Polish TV News showed a proud Marek in Munich as he waited with Polish drivers to take the new MAN trucks back to Poland and help the Polish economy grow.

But he reckoned without the old style networks of communist control that still ran large sections of Polish bureaucracy, tax police and city councils.

They were corrupt under communism and were no less corrupt under capitalism. They wanted their cut and when they didn’t get under-the-table zlotys they had the tools – a compliant police force, legal officials who could find pretexts in the old communist penal code to take action, and a media that swapped communist conformity for sensationalist personalized attacks on anyone the new power-holders did not like.

Marek found his lorries taken from him by police without a warrant. A member of the Sejm (Poland’s Parliament) who championed his cause was found murdered shortly after he protested on Marek’s behalf.

A television journalist shot dramatic footage of the brutal raid on Marek’s business, including scenes of his brave wife trying to get an explanation from the police officer who looked with contempt on her and other workers with the same disdain on his face as he showed a few years earlier when beating up Polish Solidarity activists. A few months after shooting the film, the Italian owner of the independent TV channel was forced to leave Poland.

So Marek was now confronting the full forces of the early post-communist but pre-democratic Poland.  The message was clear. You can do business on our terms and if you pay off the right people.

For a new businessman, alone without a structure of  laws and business support in mature market economies, it was a frightening time.

But Marek was determined to create jobs for Polish workers and help grow Polish firms.

Two decades later, by now operating from Germany where he felt the legal system in place was a better guarantee of business security than the more volatile Poland where despite the efforts of successive Finance Ministers, the tax police operated as  a state within a state, as the tax police executives always took a substantial share of any reclaimed moneys, 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.

A word of caution at this stage in our narrative.  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.

This was 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 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 a lengthy investigation by the Berlin police and relevant authorities cleared Marek.

He has also been involved in a long-running legal dispute with the Polish state which he believes – with evidence and a sense of injustice on his side – took advantage of the chaotic and corrupt relations between former communist officials, criminal elements and politicians just anxious to get money to run party political campaigns after 1990.

Edward Lucas, is a distinguished British author journalist, currently the International Editor of The Economist. He says the worst mistake journalists like him who covered the end of communism made was not to investigate and expose the continuing role of communist era money and officials after 1990.

“The worst mistake was that we journalists were so busy celebrating the fall of communism in 1989 we did not ask hard questions about what was happening to the money and the people from the old regime. Where did the billions of dollars in the Communist Party money and secret-police slush funds disappear to in all the confusion. Who kept control of them? And to what purpose were they put?

“It was a hard story to write. Some of the people who knew the answers committed suicide in rather implausible ways… I wish  had followed the remarkable business careers of underworld figures with links to the city administration.” (European Voice  21 November 2013)

It was in that in this world of linkages between communist money, communist-turned-capitalist officials, hidden violence and a lack of transparent rule-of-law judiciary systems with a clear separation between politicians and private business that Marek tried to make his way.

What is surprising is that the system has failed so far to destroy him.

They have taken advantage of the fact that Marek has provisionally held on to some social security money that is owed to the Polish authorities for the 7,000 men and women he employs as a signal that he wants the Warsaw government to examine seriously the complaints he has against Polish officialdom in past years.

A state even with dubious elements operating within it cannot be dictated to by a single individual. But instead of opening a dialogue with Marek, the Polish authorities used the kind of brute force that General Jaruzelski deployed to crush Polish Soldarity.

Armed police, disguised and unidentifiable, raided Marek’s business premises and effectively shut down operations early in November 2013. Elderly people were dragged from their beds to be interrogated about their sons and daughters.

A  lady who worked for Marek in Switzerland and was visiting her family in Wroclaw was arrested and is still in detention, together with a few other managers, mostly women.

There was a time when the reputation of Poles was to be the most polite Europeans when it came to ladies. Not any longer as women have been targeted by authorities in Poland who are still seeking a state of permanent confrontation with Marek.

But the new Polish nomenklatura know they are on thin ground. They cannot issue an arrest warrant for Marek as their actions would be illegal in most EU states and in other European Economic Area countries like Switzerland.

Instead they prefer to see 7,000 Poles without income and elderly Polish ladies taken and kept in prison as some kind of hostage.

Marek is no saint. He is an aggressive corner-cutting buccaneer of a businessman searching for business opportunities where he can find them. If he can avoid paying money to the state he does so – what business does not?

But 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 who speaks no other language than that of Mickiewicz, Milosz and Pope John Paul II.  But someone, somewhere in the 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.

Published in The Story

BRUSSELS, January 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --

 

The Berlin registered company K.u.K. - E.F.I International GmbH is taking legal steps to recover German owned properties that have been confiscated in Poland by the Wroclaw Prosecutor's Office without any court decision or legal warrant.

The properties include the assets of 4 non-resident commercial bank accounts registered in the name of the German company in Poland that were blocked in March 2013 and the deposits confiscated, without any grounds.

The list of confiscated assets also include three cars, registered in Berlin in Germany in the name of K.u.K. - E.F.I International GmbH, which were seized on 6th November in Poland by the Wroclaw Prosecutor's Office. A German employee driving one of the company owned cars was detained for 36 hours although he was not charged, and the vehicle he was driving was confiscated without any explanation.

International lawyers representing K.u.K. - E.F.I International GmbH are claiming a breach of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on the protection of bilateral investment between Germany and Poland and a breach of Article 231 of the Polish Criminal Code by the Wroclaw Prosecutor's Office.

On referral from the Polish Prosecutor General's Office, between 2011 and 2013 K.u.K. - E.F.I International GmbH was the subject of a full and comprehensive investigation by the Berlin State Prosecutor during which the company in Berlin fully co-operated with and assisted the German authorities with their research, providing all of the documents and the information requested.

Having examined these thoroughly after an investigation of 3 years, the Berlin Prosecutor's Office ruled on 28th October 2013 that there was no evidence to substantiate the claims from the Polish authorities against K.u.K. - E.F.I International GmbH, Zdiszlaw, Halina and Anna Kmetko and that the investigation was closed.

The seizures by the Wroclaw Prosecutor's Office of the property belonging to K.u.K. - E.F.I International GmbH have been made without reference to the German authorities, without any Polish or German court decisions or legal warrants, and the legality of these actions is now being challenged by the Company's international legal team in Berlin.

"21st Century Poland has shaken off its soviet past, but in some parts of the administration there remain some pockets of recidivism and behaviour more appropriate to homo sovieticus," a spokesman for the company said. "Poland is a key member of the European Union, and a supporter of European values and European law. Our company is an international European business that respects the highest standards of EU governance and we cannot tolerate this kind of treatment. We believe our assets have been taken away without due legal process or authority. We will defend our corporate rights and seek to recover them through the correct legal channels, in accordance with European law."

For more information see http://www.kmetkostory.org    

Issued for K.u.K. - E.F.I International GmbH by Macmillan PR Ltd.

SOURCE K.u.K. - E.F.I International GmbH

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/polish-confiscation-of-german-corporate-assets-triggers-legal-challenge-241118421.html

 

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A senior Polish MEP says the authorities in Poland may have breached EU judicial law in the case of an entrepreneur who says he is the victim of a long-running campaign to discredit him.

Poland has already been castigated by the European Court of Human Rights for its long-running practice of detaining suspects without charge.

The Strasbourg-based court criticised Poland for imposing excessive lengths of pre-trial detention, failing to provide adequate reasons why pre-trial detention is necessary and failing to consider alternatives to pre-trial detention. 

The criticism came in a report produced for Fair Trials International by the international law firm Clifford Chance. 

Polish law dictates that pre-trial detention can be imposed for a period of three months, but defendants cannot be held in prison where other preventive measures suffice.

 

It has been alleged that Piotr Kalecinski, the state prosecutor in Wroclaw, Poland may be in breach of the EU´s Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

This concerns recent raids by the Polish authorities on companies operated by businessman Marek Kmetko, a Polish national currently living in Zurich, which resulted in a number of arrests.

After more than 10 weeks in prison, six people who were detained on Mr Kalecinski´s orders still do not know what, if any, charges may be brought against them.

The detainees, who have been denied access to legal aid, have yet to receive notice of any charges.

A draft letter of complaint about their treatment has now been sent to the charity Amnesty International together with a list of possible breaches of the Charter of EU Fundamental Rights allegedly committed by Mr Kalecinski.

The raids by officers from the Wroclaw Prosecutor’s office were the latest twist in an investigation for alleged fraud-related irregularities.

The inquiry has been running for some three years and has involved two separate police raids on the Polish offices of K.u.K. International and SACMET in November 2012 and November 2013.

A Polish MEP, who did not wish to be named, said the case "gives cause for real concern."

He added, "I think there is a case to be made here that the authorities may be in breach of EU law. Given the continued detention without charge of these people this is something that needs looking into with some urgency."

His concerns are echoed by an international human rights expert who said the current detentions "risk contravening"  article 47 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.

This states that: “Everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable period of time by an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law.”

“Everyone in the EU has the right to have their affairs handled fairly and impartially under Article 41 the Charter,” he went on to say, “and the administrative actions being taken at state level in Wroclaw risk taking Poland into the opposite direction from the commitments that have been made to respect the Charter of Fundamental Rights as a signatory of the EU Treaties.”

A spokesman for K.u.K International said, “It is unacceptable that innocent people should be imprisoned without charge, and without access to legal aid. 

“We have already brought these matters to the attention of the Prosecutor General in Poland, the European Parliament's Petitions Committee, and we are now filing a formal complaint with Amnesty International drawing attention to the actions of Piotr Kalecinski and the breaches of human rights in Wroclaw.”

“This is a European election year, and it is time for all Polish politicians to distance modern Poland ever further from its Soviet past, and to make renewed efforts for Poland to continue to move closer to respect for the EU values enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

 

For more information visit www.kmetkostory.org 

http://www.europeanbusinessreview.eu/page.asp?pid=1149

 

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BRUSSELS, December 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

The 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 7 000 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 respond to the offer of the German company, the Wroclaw authorities continue to detain in prison, without charge, innocent 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 human 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.

For more information see http://www.kmetkostory.org    

Issued for K.u.K. International Limited by Macmillan PR

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/businessman-puzzled-at-polish-governments-lack-of-response-to-proposed-payment-of-62-million-zlotys-237014231.html

 

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European authorities are being asked to investigate an attack on a German company which operates in Poland.

Termination of the Kmetko case in Germany confirms a similar decision of Prosecutor’s office in Wroclaw which was notified to the company in a letter dated 31 May 2012, which also closed the investigation.

Lawyers representing the company have written to the European Commission saying that a raid by armed security forces on the K.u.K employment agency in the south west Polish city of Wroclaw was aimed at stopping fair competition by forcing the closure of the Berlin-based company.

Polish authorities have made accusations against the firm saying it was involved in money-laundering.

But a lengthy investigation by the Berlin State Prosecutor has stated the charges are unfounded.

Following a letter dated 28 October from the Berlin State Prosecutor exonerating K.u.K. from any charges, it appears that the reaction of Wroclaw police has been to attack the firm.

“Over 7,000 jobs in Poland are now in peril,” said a spokesman for K.u.K.

On Tuesday, one Polish MEP, who said he did not wish to be named, also condemned the action, telling this website, “This like something out of the Communist era or behaviour you would expect in Putin’s Russia but not Tusk’s Poland.”

Claiming that they were investigating alleged money-laundering operations by the Berlin registered company K.u.K. International, Polish authorities conducted a series of raids against the company on 5 November.

Armed special units smashed their way into property owned by K.u.K., seized company assets,including two German registered cars.

They also searched K.u.K offices in Warsaw, Szczecin, Olsztyn and Dębic. The police raid extended to searching private apartments and seizing private property. German citizens were amongst the persons arrested by the police.

The armed police arrested Polish citizens employed by the company and blocked the non-resident bank account of K.u.K. International - thereby threatening the payment of wages due to the company’s 7 000 employees.

Responding, management of K.u.K. International branded them as "without any justification in law."

“The state sponsored actions are wholly disproportionate and unjustified. They threaten legitimate business operations and the rights of innocent individuals. No European business can operate on a cross-border basis if the police act without respect for basic European values and laws,” said a K.u.K. International spokesman.

The raids come within seven days of the Berlin State Prosecutor concluding a thorough and comprehensive two and a half year investigation into the affairs of the company.

This was conducted at the request of the Polish government within the framework of the agreement on legal assistance between the two countries.

Polish businessman Zdzislaw Kmetko and his wife Halina as well as their German company K.u.K. -E.F.I. International Logistic + Händel GmbH did not commit money laundering or any concealment of assets, the Berlin State Prosecutor concluded following the two year long investigation.

In a letter addressed to Halina Kmetko as the owner of the K.u.K. and dated 28 October, 2013 the office of Berlin prosecutor notified the company that the investigation had been terminated due to lack of evidence of any violation.

Termination of the Kmetko case in Germany confirms a similar decision of Prosecutor’s office in Wroclaw which was notified to the company in a letter dated 31 May 2012, which also closed the investigation.

"The raids are without justification and directly contradict the written confirmation of the Public Prosecutor of Wroclaw from 31 May 2012 stating that no money laundering operations were undertaken by K.u.K. International," a company spokesman said.

“This policy of state harassment of the family business of Wroclaw entrepreneur Zdzislaw Kmetko follows a consistent trend going back to the communist era of the early 1990s, and suggests a deliberate strategy of targeted, selective and vindictive actions designed to destroy the legitimate family business of K.u.K. International and to break the spirit of its owners and its employees,” the K.u.K International spokesman went on to say.

“These illegal actions will be contested vigorously in the courts, and we shall apply for remedies to protect the legitimate business interests of K.u.K. International and to defend the rights of the individuals who have been subject to this wholly unwarranted, groundless and unjustified harassment,” the spokesman added.

"This attempt to shut down and destroy a legitimate Polish business providing jobs for 7000 people in Poland is a bad signal to send out at a time when the Polish economy is slowing down.

"We believe it is against the EU rules on the single market and against EU fundamental rights and we will be asking the relevant commissioners in Brussels to examine this police attack on a private company that pays its taxes in Germany, Switzerland, Poland where it operates and fully complies with the law in all three countries.

"Clearly it suits the company’s competitors to see the police raid and the attempt to shut down his business, but Poland must respect rule of law as an EU member state,” the company spokesman concluded.

A source at the European commission in Brussels said they would look into the matter as soon as they received the complaint.

http://www.europeanbusinessreview.eu/page.asp?pid=1122

 

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