Prosecutors’ association board may be held liable on criminal charges for reporting the suspected abuse of authority by Minister of Justice
The management board of the Lex Super Omnia (LSO) association of prosecutors may be held liable on criminal charges for reporting the suspected abuse of authority by Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro. Proceedings are pending in this matter.
Prosecutor Krzysztof Parchimowicz, co-founder and former president of Lex Super Omnia association (LSO), was again in the line of sights of the prosecutor’s office and, with him, also the association’s management board.
This is because the prosecutors from the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Ostrołęka are conducting an investigation regarding the organization – they are investigating the report it filed in September 2019.
The report applied to the suspicion that Minister of Justice – Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro had committed a crime. According to LSO, he had illegally issued a regulation enabling top management of the prosecutor’s office to receive additional benefits.
According to the prosecutors from Ostrołęka, this was a false accusation and report of a crime that had not been committed. The proceedings are pending under Articles 238 and 234 of the Penal Code. This is punishable by imprisonment for up to two years. The investigation is being handled by Prosecutor Małgorzata Ochman, a prosecutor from the Pułtusk district posted to the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Ostrołęka. So far, Prosecutor Parchimowicz has been summoned for questioning as a witness on 19 October.
‘This is a further manifestation of harassment intended to silence LSO, which has been a thorn in the side of the good change management of the prosecutor’s office since its registration,’ says Parchimowicz. ‘Money is currently an important element of building the motivation of the prosecutors. That is why the disclosure of abuse related to the collection of undue allowances has hurt the management so much. I shall come to the questioning. However, I do not intend to help the prosecutor prosecute members of the LSO.
Allowances for the prosecutor’s senior management
Prosecutor Parchimowicz and the current president of the organization, Prosecutor Katarzyna Kwiatkowska, signed the report on Ziobro addressed to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. In it, LSO raised the allegation that the management of the National Prosecutor’s Office received allowances of 2,700 per month, namely a housing allowance in addition to their salaries because of Ziobro’s illegal regulation. 29 people received the benefits, including national prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski and the prosecutor general’s deputies, including Krzysztof Sierak, Marek Pasionek and Robert Hernand, as well as the directors of the National Public Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutors received the allowance without grounds up to August 2018. A total of more than PLN 2.3 million from the budget was spent on this.
Why – according to LSO – were the allowances paid without legal grounds? The Act on the Public Prosecutor’s Office of 2016 stipulated that housing allowances are only due to prosecutors who were posted away from their current place of work and residence. But it was also taken by other prosecutors appointed to posts in the National Prosecutor’s Office. Ziobro’s regulation increased this group, extending beyond the Act. LSO believes that Zbigniew Ziobro overstepped his authority to the benefit of third parties, namely the management of the National Prosecutor’s Office (Article 231 para. 2 of the Penal Code). Such a crime is punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years.
‘The Minister of Justice – Prosecutor General will be under suspicion for as long as the matter of the allowances is not fully clarified,’ believes Prosecutor Parchimowicz.
The National Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice had never officially admitted to illegally paying the allowance. But when the matter was publicized by ‘Wyborcza’, a provision was introduced into the law in August 2018 enabling the payment of housing allowances to prosecutors from the National Prosecutor’s Office working in the capital but permanently residing outside Warsaw. They have been taking the money legally since then.
Counterattack from Ad Vocem
However, LSO’s report infuriated the prosecutors from the pro-Ziobro association, Ad Vocem. Its founders and the most important activists, including National Prosecutor Bogdan Święczkowski, were beneficiaries of the housing allowances. Therefore, Ad Vocem reported LSO to one of the Warsaw district prosecutor’s offices in September 2019 as being suspected of having committed a crime involving the ‘false accusation of the minister of justice of overstepping his authority”’. According to Ad Vocem, the collection of the allowances ‘was and is legal’. Is the investigation in Ostrołęka a follow-on from Ad Vocem’s notification? Prosecutors from LSO have not received any official information on this. We are also waiting for a response from the Ostrołęka prosecutors on this.
It is known that the matter of Zbigniew Ziobro potentially abusing his authority in the prosecutor’s office has never been seriously taken up. The first of such proceedings were being conducted on the basis of a notice from Prosecutor Parchimowicz and ended in August 2017 with a refusal to initiate an investigation. Such a decision was made by the then head of the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw, Paweł Blachowski (who has been rapidly promoted under Ziobro – now he is posted to the National Prosecutor’s Office). He argued that the regulation was not issued in breach of his authority, because it was protected by the presumption of constitutionality: it is part of the applicable legal order until questioned by the Constitutional Tribunal. LSO treated the notice of September 2019 as a motion to take up old proceedings. A decision was made to refusal to handle the case because of a lack of any new circumstances. According to the prosecutors from LSO, not only does the Constitutional Tribunal determine the compliance of regulations with an act of law, but so do independent judges. Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s office never took any steps to check the compliance of the regulation with the law.
Harassment of an inconvenient prosecutor
Prosecutor Parchimowicz is the most harassed prosecutor of the times of the ‘good change’. Other than having numerous disciplinary proceedings, he is also the target of several criminal proceedings.
‘These are essentially the third criminal proceedings against me, but the first directly related to my activity in LSO,’ says Parchimowicz.
‘Wyborcza’ wrote about two other proceedings. One of them was handled by the famous Internal Affairs Department of the National Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutors from the Internal Affairs Department of the National Prosecutor’s Office rummaged around the family inheritance files of the LSO’s co-founder under the pretext of checking Parchimowicz’s asset declaration. Were they looking for something on him? The National Prosecutor’s Office claimed that ‘calling these activities “surveillance” and “looking for something on him” is an insinuation.’ The proceedings ended in failure – the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings.
Parchimowicz’s name also appears in the third set of criminal proceedings – in the investigation regarding the abuse of authority by judges and prosecutors in connection with prosecution for VAT crimes. They are handled by the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Białystok. It is supposed to demonstrate that judges of the Supreme Court and prosecutors at the highest level supported the development of the VAT mafia and contributed to the emergence of a VAT shortfall of PLN 250 billion.
Translated by Roman Wojtasz
The text was published in Polish in Gazeta Wyborcza.