Poland detains ex-Ukrainian road agency chief on money laundering charges

Sławomir Nowak. Image: pravda.com.ua 

International, Reforms, Ukraine

On 20 July 2020, Poland’s Central Anti-Corruption Bureau detained Sławomir Nowak, the country’s former transport minister and former head of the Ukrainian automobile road agency, and two other people, as reported by the press-secretary of the Minister-Coordinator of Special Services of Poland, Stanislaw Żaryn.

According to Gazeta Wyborcza, Nowak is suspected of corruption, money laundering, and being the leader of an organized criminal group, who created a criminal organization whose activities were aimed at embezzling funds allocated by international organizations for road repairs in Ukraine.”

The Polish prosecutor’s office said the detention was the result of an international investigation conducted by a joint group of prosecutors from Poland and Ukraine, the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau of Poland and the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).

The District Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw is going to bring six charges up against Nowak, linked to the period of his work in Ukraine as top manager of the Ukrainian State Motor Road Service “Ukravtodor,” Gazeta Wyborcza reported.

On 20 July, NABU conducted about 50 searches in Kyiv and Lviv, the agency operatives came to the offices of Ukravtodor, of the companies participating in Avtodor’s tenders, and to the places of residence of the suspected former Ukrainian officials of Ukravtodor and Poland citizens.

NABU searching Ukravtodor. Photo: NABU

In addition to the three indictments to allegedly corrupt officials in Poland, NABU has indicted one more unknown person Ukraine, and the agency states it is going to have more suspects in this case.

Nowak

Prior to his work in Ukraine, Sławomir Nowak was a successful political figure in Poland.

He started his political career in the early 2000s with the Platforma Obywatelska party (Civic Platform). Nowak was elected to the Polish parliament Sejm on several occasions starting from the 2001 elections.

At the 2010 presidential election, he headed the presidential campaign of Bronisław Komorowski. In 2011-2013, Sławomir Nowak served as Poland’s Minister of Transport, Construction and Maritime Economy.

In 2013, Polish media noticed that the minster wore a $6,600 Swiss watch not listed in his declaration. The scandal eventually led to his resignation the same year, and in 2014, a court fined Nowak $6,000 for not declaring the luxury item.

In October 2016, the Polish politician became the acting chief of Ukravtodor by a recommendation of then Infrastructure Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Omelian, and received Ukrainian citizenship.

Nowak’s Ukravtodor appointment coincided with the start of a major road construction campaign, announced and actively promoted by then Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman

Sławomir Nowak stated that Ukravtodor repaired about 7,000 km of roads in Ukraine in 2016-2018. Photo: Dmytro Larin/pravda.com.ua

During his tenure at Ukravtodor, the Cabinet of Ministers actively replenished the Road Fund, which helped renovate Ukraine’s often-catastrophic transport arteries. Sławomir Nowak helped politicians to score political points by showing off the renovated roads as theirs political achievements.

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In September 2019, Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NAZK) announced that it had filed a lawsuit based on the fact of Nowak’s submission of the declaration containing false data. The agency claimed that he lowered the declared value of his car and hid funds in bank accounts.

Two weeks later, Sławomir Nowak resigned, citing a new job offer and “family circumstances.”

Nowak later won the case against the NAZK in a Kyiv court.

Charges

NABU states that they revealed a criminal organization that had stolen international funds allocated for road repairs in Ukraine. Since the investigation is still underway, no companies involved in the alleged crime were named.

According to NABU, in 2016-2019, Nowak abused his position in Avtodor to receive bribes “for himself or third parties.” He allegedly favored certain road construction and repair tender participants. The funds allocated to those tenders mounted to a total of 270 million euros.

The scheme of money laundering, as per NABU, was in creating companies controlled by Nowak in Poland, which allegedly received the bribe money from tender bidders and declared the received funds as their authorized share capital. In some cases, bribe givers had to buy out such companies by paying prices hundreds of times higher than the authorized capital of the companies, NABU states.

NABU suspects Nowak under Article 368 Section 4 of the Criminal Code: “receiving a bribe in an especially large amount or by an official who occupies a position of special responsibility.” In Ukraine, this implies a sentence of 8 to 12 years in prison, confiscation of property, and a ban on holding certain official positions in the state.

As a dual citizen, Nowak can be tried in Poland where he received his notice of suspicion.

Meanwhile, ex-Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelian wished Sławomir Nowak “to prove himself innocent” and assured that “Ukrainian citizens are grateful to him for restoring and launching the road construction system, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, rebuilding thousands of kilometers of roads,” the ex-minister wrote in a Facebook post.

A month ago, NABU informed Omelian that he was suspected of “committing illegal actions” which led to a $1.1 million shortfalls in profits for the state budget – in 2017 as a minister, Omelian reduced port dues by 20% in order to increase the cargo traffic in Ukrainian ports which resulted in the traffic growth that exceeded 20% in 2018-2019. Omelian said that it was a collective decision by the Cabinet, and called the NABU accusation a precedent that can be applied to any government which tries to ease the pressure on businesses.


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Source: European Pravda

Source: Ukrainian Pravda

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