Khodorkovsky repeated in Poland?
The founders of Polish IT company Bestcom are demanding PLN 10 mln from the Polish Treasury, in compensation for what they view as groundless detention, Polish daily Puls Biznesu reported April 12.
“Had we not been groundlessly presented with charges – and such serious ones – which led to our arrest, the company would not have gone bankrupt,” Jacek K, former CEO of Bestcom, told the paper.
The story bears a striking resemblance to the controversial incarceration of Russian oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, founder of Russian oil giant Yukos. Khorodovsky was stripped of his fortune as a consequence of what he described in his latest book “Putin’s Prisoner” as a complot designed by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
Jacek K and Robert N founded Bestcom in the early 1990s, at that time just a single IT boutique, and were so successful that by the 2000s they developed it into one of the leading IT companies on the Polish market, with an annual turnover of PLN 150 mln.
They were detained in June 2006, as part of a penal investigation launched by prosecutor Robert Mielczarek from the Regional Prosecution Office in Wroclaw. They were charged with participation in an organized criminal group, money laundering, issuing fictitious invoices, and fiscal fraud.
“We sat in one cell with murderers and juvenile offenders,” Jacek K recounts. “We were isolated from the running and supervision of the company. Its assets were not secured by the court. During the nine months of detention, we were only allowed to meet the prosecutor once and our lawyers a few times […],” Jacek K said.
The court-appointed manager allegedly ran Bestcom into the ground, filing for bankruptcy just four months after taking over operations. The company’s assets were distributed at half-price, including real-estate reportedly valued at PLN 10 mln, auctioned off for PLN 2 mln.
Acting from inside the prison, through their lawyers, the founders tried to save the company by filing an application for an arrangement bankruptcy. However, their application was rebuffed by three judges from the District Court for Poznan-Stare Miasto.
After a number of interventions by Amnesty International, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Polish Ombudsman, MPs and senators; the National Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Prosecutor General agreed to review the case.
A series of irregularities committed by the Wroclaw Prosecution Office were uncovered. These included: chaos and non-coordinated action, collecting evidence after the suspects had been arrested, a lack of criminal analysis, a failure to probe the alleged money laundering, and a shabby collection of the dossier.
Jacek K is demanding at total of PLN 5.9 mln compensation, and Robert N filed for PLN 3.3 mln.