The case is unprecedented in nature, and could have significant repercussions in the Polish political landscape. On Thursday, October 15, the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) arrested and then searched the home and office of Roman Giertych, one of the most popular lawyers in the Polish liberal opposition. The latter represents, among others, the former President of the European Council and former Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his family, or the former Foreign Minister, MEP Radoslaw Sikorski.
At 1:00 p.m. Thursday, CBA officials arrested the lawyer after leaving a Warsaw Regional Court hearing, before handcuffed him to his home where they searched and interviewed him. Victim of illness, Mr. Giertych was hospitalized in the evening. On Friday morning, his family deemed his state of health “serious”, before the prosecution denied it and communicated that his hearing would be able to continue at the hospital. Like twelve other people arrested on the same day, Mr. Giertych heard the charges of “Embezzlement of funds from a listed company” up to 92 million zlotys (20 million euros), as well as “Money laundering. “
Roman Giertych is an atypical personality, who has stood out since 2015 for his multiple media and legal crusades against the PiS (Law and Justice) government and Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s party. He is notably involved in three major legal proceedings perceived as embarrassing by the court.
“An eminently political affair”
His arrest – the form of which was deemed grossly disproportionate by his peers – provoked strong reactions, as well as a wave of support denouncing a serious breach of legal professional secrecy. The Mediator of the Republic and Defender of Civil Rights, Adam Bodnar, notably communicated that “The conditions and style of the arrest [de l’avocat] by the CBA raise the most serious concerns and require explanation ”. In the same vein, the high council of the bar denounced the fact that the dean of the council was not present during the searches, as the law stipulates.
Through his family, the person concerned denounced “An eminently political affair, a revenge for [son] anti-government activity. “ Donald Tusk was also very adept when he said on Twitter that the lawyer “Has challenged power by exposing its corrupt character and defending its opponents. Today he has once again exposed the essence of illegal practices in the justice system. They will not forgive him. We may not agree with him, but let’s stand together on this point. “
For his part, the spokesperson for the coordinator of special services, Stanislaw Zaryn stressed that “These arrests are unrelated to media innuendo.” “Let’s wait until we can say something more about this affair, he added, which has a criminal character. It is the result of a months-long investigation, for which the CBA has gathered ample and solid evidence. “
Undermining of all checks and balances
Roman Giertych was during the first PiS governments (2005-2007) deputy prime minister, minister of education and head of the Polish League of Families (LPR), a Catholic far-right party since dissolved. His “conversion” into a lawyer for the main leaders of the Civic Platform (PO), in power between 2007 and 2015 and then the first opposition party, continues to raise controversy.
Renowned lawyer Jacek Dubois, who has been associated with Mr. Giertych’s files on several occasions, told the World that he told him the day before his arrest that he was about to reveal evidence which “Compromised one of the highest political leaders in power”. The next day, he was to represent banker Jacek Czarnecki in a high-profile trial, in a politico-financial affair in which several names of those close to power are cited. He was her only lawyer. “The documents that Mr. Giertych held showed behind the scenes of this affair, embarrassing for the authorities”, affirms Mr. Dubois.
Several opposition newspapers have also revealed that the prosecutors of the Poznan public prosecutor’s office, which is in charge of the case, were surprised by this arrest, which was made on the initiative of prosecutors appointed by the sulphurous Minister of Justice , Zbigniew Ziobro. By virtue of the PiS reforms, the latter combines his post with that of Attorney General, and enjoys considerable prerogatives. This case appears to be the culmination of a process in which the PiS, for five years, has undermined all checks and balances within the justice system. In a country where special services – intelligence and anti-corruption – have regularly been used for political ends, the affair has not stopped provoking controversy.