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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » August 29, 2012
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The Curious Case of Marcin P.
August 29, 2012   
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The story of Marcin P., the CEO of the bankrupt investment firm Amber Gold, could well prove to be the scandal of the decade in Poland. This curious case has more questions than answers. The main question is how is it possible that Marcin P.—his last name has been withheld under Polish law—is still walking free, even though six serious charges have been leveled against him. He has been put under police supervision and banned from leaving Poland, but has not been detained. Why? “I also find myself asking that question,” was what Justice Minister Jarosław Gowin told reporters when questioned on the matter.

Marcin P., a 28-year-old graduate of a secondary school specializing in economics, has notched up quite a record. Between 2005 and 2010, courts sentenced him nine times for various financial and economic offenses such as obtaining loans under false pretenses, fraud, embezzlement and providing false information. In each case, he received a suspended sentence and never saw the inside of a prison cell. His young age was reportedly cited as an important reason, but the Polish press is full of stories about much younger people being put behind bars for nothing more than failing to pay a fine of a few hundred zlotys. Meanwhile, in the case of Marcin P., millions of zlotys were at stake.

Another twist to this surprising tale came when Marcin P.’s probation officer apparently confused the numerals 5 and 500. The officer reported that Marcin P. had returned money to all the people he had deceived in one of his cases, while in fact he had paid money back to only five of them. If not for this embarrassing mistake, Marcin P. would have landed in prison.

Everyone is now asking how is it possible that an embezzler with multiple court sentences to his name had no problems in setting up new companies, including an investment firm that reportedly traded in hundreds of kilograms of gold, and a budget airline handling domestic flights and chartering aircraft to take tourists to vacation destinations abroad.

It has turned out that, after the installation of a new IT system, officials keeping National Court Registers are no longer required to screen individuals seeking to become company CEOs and board members for any dirt in their past—despite the fact that the Commercial Companies Code bans people convicted of financial offenses from holding such posts.

Another mystery is how Amber Gold got to trade in gold even though it did not have the required permit. A further question is why Amber Gold was allowed to operate undisturbed for several years even though the Polish Financial Supervision Commission (KNF) had taken an interest in the company’s dealings. Amber Gold stayed in business until it went bankrupt in a spectacular manner, leaving tens of thousands of people with poor prospects of recouping even half the money they had invested with Amber Gold, not to mention the hefty interest they were promised on their “golden” investments.

Does the case of Marcin P. have a political dimension? It’s hard to say. Rumor has it that Marcin P. was on familiar terms with a number of prominent officials and decision makers, but no one has been caught red-handed. What seems more likely is that Marcin P. had ties to criminal organizations in the coastal region or at least to other businessmen with a shady past. Some say Marcin P. was just a puppet, while the puppet masters remain deep in the shadows. Did these people protect him from being brought to justice for several years? Perhaps the official investigation into the case will produce some answers.
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