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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » December 21, 2011
In Brief
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Former State Protection Office Chief Suspected of Corruption
December 21, 2011   
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Five individuals including retired general Gromosław Czempiński, former head of the State Protection Office (UOP), were detained on corruption charges by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CB¦) and the Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) Nov. 23.

Czempiński headed the State Protection Office under a leftist government in the 1990s. He is the highest-ranking security service officer to have been detained on corruption charges in Poland.

The prosecutor’s office in Katowice is investigating suspected corruption from 1998 to 2004 during the privatization of two large state-owned enterprises, LOT Polish Airlines and Warsaw-based electricity provider Stoen. Treasury Ministry officials are among those suspected of corruption.

In the case of LOT, bribes totaling $1 million are suspected to have been paid and the Stoen privatization is believed to have involved bribes of 1.4 million euros. According to the prosecutor’s office, the sums were transferred to suspects’ accounts in banks in Cyprus and Switzerland.

Czempiński is suspected of accepting a bribe during the Stoen privatization and of involvement in the laundering of around 600,000 euros.

The former State Protection Office chief denied the accusations while being questioned. He was released on bail of zl.1 million, an unusually high sum for the Polish judicial system.

Czempiński’s lawyer paid the required amount the day after his client was detained. Czempiński later said he received the money from a friend whose name he did not reveal.

Czempiński, 66, is a living legend of Poland’s security services and a man with a controversial communist-era record. A graduate of the Poznań University of Economics, he also studied at the Intelligence Training Center, from which he graduated in 1972. After that he held different posts in the First (intelligence) Department of the Interior Ministry, and worked as an agent in the United States. From 1980 to 1990, he worked for Poland’s counterintelligence service.

After the end of communism in Poland, in 1990 Czempiński was cleared to work in the newly established State Protection Office, which replaced the communist security service SB. Czempiński’s most spectacular feat was an operation coordinated by the State Protection Office to evacuate six American CIA agents from Iraq in the fall of 1990. The operation involved the use of authentic passports of Polish construction workers employed by Polish companies in Iraq at the time. The CIA agents used these passports as they crossed Iraq’s border with Turkey traveling in a bus filled with Polish workers whose work contracts had just expired. The operation, called Samum after the desert wind, became the basis for a Polish action movie several years later. In return for the successful operation, U.S. President George Bush is said to have written off a part of Poland’s debt to the United States.

After retiring, Czempiński became a businessman and a member of the supervisory and management boards of a number of companies. He also lobbied for business sectors such as fuel trade, telecommunications and military and police equipment.
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