Justice minister says no evidence that dep FM committed any crime
Poland’s justice minister has said that there is no evidence to suggest that a former deputy foreign minister embroiled in a cash-for-visa scandal committed a crime.
But Zbigniew Ziobro, who is also the head of the Prosecutor’s Office, said that Piotr Wawrzyk, who was removed from his post when the scandal broke, will face questioning and that "an interrogation will definitely take place."
Last week, the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper wrote that possibly tens of thousands of immigrants may have acquired visas by irregular means to get into Poland and the Schengen Zone. Others may also have paid large sums of money just to get their names on the visa application list but in the end got nothing in return.
The scandal has the potential to damage the government in the run-up to October 15’s general election. Dominated by the socially-conservative Law and Justice party, the governing coalition has made controlling migration a central tenet of its election campaign, so allegations concerning cash-for-visas could fuel accusations of hypocrisy.
The opposition Civic Platform party has already claimed the scandal is damaging Poland’s reputation.
But speaking to radio station RMF FM on Saturday morning, Ziobro said Wawrzyk, who was in charge of visa and consular affairs, appears to have done no wrong.
"At the moment, I can say, contrary to the claims of Civic Platform politicians, that there is not a shred of evidence at the moment that would indicate that Mr Wawrzyk derived any benefits," said Ziobro, adding that "from the trial and operational materials available to the prosecutor's office, there is no evidence that Wawrzyk participated in criminal activities."
The justice minister went on to say that the fact that Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister, dismissed Wawrzyk once it became clear that something wrong had taken place was evidence that the system was working correctly.
Ziobro also said that the investigation into the scandal concerned 268 granted applications for accelerated issuance.
"The scandal was discovered by the Polish (law-enforcement – PAP) services, not foreign ones," he added.
Yesterday in a video posted on social media on Friday, Morawiecki played down the scale of the apparent scandal saying that "irregularities relating to several hundred visas, I repeat, several hundred visas, were identified by us as part of control procedures."
"Poland’s law-enforcement services took appropriate action and people suspected of breaking the law were identified. The prosecutor's office brought charges against seven people, and three of them are in custody," he added.