Przemysław Krych is a private equity investor, philanthropist and founder of Cornerstone Investment Management and Griffin Real Estate. Via the Krych Family Fund, the entrepreneur is the largest donor of the Investigative Journalism Initiative of Poland’s leading liberal daily, Gazeta Wyborcza.
He was detained in December 2017 by the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) for reportedly refusing to pay for so-called “protection”, subsequently revealed to likely be connected to the entourage of prosecutor general and justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro. Krych was charged with attempting to bribe a public official and spent six months in jail, before being released on bail in May 2018.
This case study is an extended and updated description of the case of Przemysław Krych, which was originally included in the “Entrepreneurs and Executives” section of the report “Polish Public Prosecutor’s Office: Selected Cases of Malicious Prosecution and Dereliction of Duties since 2015”, published by the Open Dialogue Foundation and the “Themis” Association of Judges in February 2022.
We consider this case a particularly severe example of abuses stemming not only from political interests but also aimed at bringing financial benefits to those close to the highest echelons of power. It is emblematic of the current political reality in Poland, where the law enforcement apparatus, including both the prosecution service and special services, serve as tools in their hands.
The practices of extortion and bribery employed against entrepreneurs have been a well-known phenomenon in the post-Soviet area but now seem to be on the rise in Poland. We consider them the next stage in the degeneracy of the Law and Justice-led ruling camp, with the goals of their abuses being not simply political, but aimed at personal, financial gain.
Malicious prosecution of Przemysław Krych
Senator Kogut and charity supportDownload report
Griffin Real Estate was a key player on the real estate market in Poland, with about EUR 5 billion of assets under management (primarily belonging to US institutional investors) at the time of the arrest of its founder.
Krych’s case is connected to a former PiS senator and the Chair of the Senate Infrastructure Committee, late Stanisław Kogut, suspected to be allegedly accepting bribes in the form of donations to his Foundation for People with Disabilities. An investigation, which started at Kogut’s foundation, led – among others – to a charity donation from Echo Investment, where Krych was a significant shareholder and Supervisory Board member.
Senator Kogut on multiple occasions sought support from Krych in finding donors for his Foundation. In 2007, the entrepreneur decided to support it. Krych – over a ten-year period – made donations personally, recommended support for the Foundation by the businesses he was directly or indirectly involved with (in which case the final decision on granting a donation was always made by representatives of the given company), and obtained support by third parties. During that period, the donations procured by Krych amounted to PLN 2 million (out of about PLN 16 million arranged or donated by him to various charitable initiatives). The donations were spent on i.a. a hospice, the adaptation of the local stadium to the needs of the disabled, as well as construction of centres for hippotherapy and support centres for autistic children and patients with multiple sclerosis.
For eight out of ten years of Krych regularly supporting the Foundation in different forms, Senator Kogut was a member of the parliamentary opposition, and thus his influence over state affairs or public administration was extremely limited, if not nil.
Detention and charges
On 19 December 2017, Krych was detained by the CBA with the charge of promising a bribe of PLN 1 million to the former senator, of which PLN 0.5 million was allegedly paid. According to the prosecutor’s office, the alleged bribe was promised and partially paid in the form of donations to the Foundation for People with Disabilities, where senator Kogut served as President. Those donations were offered and made by Echo Investment. Notably, Krych did not hold any position in the management board of Echo Investment, and thus he could not have made any final decision regarding said charity donations.
According to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Katowice, the alleged bribe was meant to support a new investment at the location of the “Cracovia” hotel and “Kyiv” cinema in Cracow. In exchange for the bribe, Kogut was allegedly supposed to arrange for the Lesser Poland Voivodeship Monument Conservator to discontinue the administrative proceedings regarding the entry of the hotel into the register of historic monuments, allowing Echo to construct a shopping centre in its place.
Both the “Cracovia” hotel and “Kyiv” cinema were entered to the register of monuments despite the alleged bribe having been paid. Shortly after the entry, both were sold by Echo Investment to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage to be used by the National Museum in Cracow. Krych (as a representative of the controlling shareholders’ group) was invited to a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński. During the meeting, Gliński said the following: “this project (acquisition of the hotel and cinema) has high priority and direct sponsorship from Prime Minister Beata Szydło (herself a former employee of the National Museum in Cracow). We can only pay this much and we would expect your cooperation here”. Echo incurred loss on said transaction with the State Treasury.
Notably, a part of the charity donation was made by Echo Investment already after the entry of hotel “Cracovia” to the register of monuments and even after its sale to the Ministry of Culture. Yet, according to the prosecutor’s office, such a donation was an alleged bribe made by Krych in exchange for arranging the discontinuation of proceedings regarding the entry of hotel “Cracovia” to the register of monuments. In other words, according to the prosecutor’s office, Krych paid a part of the alleged bribe to Senator Kogut already after Senator Kogut failed to achieve what he allegedly promised to achieve, and already after hotel “Cracovia” was bought by the Polish State Treasury. Furthermore, the construction of a shopping centre was not allowed by the land development plan for that part of the city anyway.
Later on, Kogut’s foundation continued to receive support from both Echo and Krych’s other associated businesses, up until the date of his arrest. [As evidenced by Przemysław Krych’s internal register of donations.- edit. note]
Pressure in custody
Przemysław Krych pleaded not guilty to all charges. By decisions of courts, he was detained in the Sosnowiec detention centre for three months (later extended for another three months). During the first detention hearing in December 2017, judge Joanna Barut of the Katowice East District Court reportedly did not even read the case file and stated that the businessman, who at that point had donated, recommended or organised the donation of a total of approx. PLN 16 million to various charitable organisations, “plays at being a philanthropist”.
During his detention, Przemysław Krych was reportedly approached on multiple occasions by supposed “inmates” with offers and sometimes threats. He was asked to provide information that would be incriminating to opposition politicians he was presumed to know due to his real estate investments in the country’s largest cities. Alleged corruption links were mentioned, and the names of prominent opposition mayors implied (Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz – Warsaw; Paweł Adamowicz – Gdańsk; Rafał Dutkiewicz – Wrocław, Hanna Zdanowska – Łódź; Jacek Jaśkowiak – Poznań, Jacek Majchrowski – Cracow).
The “inmates” implied that he could be released if he incriminates the mayors and threatened Krych with the possibility of planting child pornography on his computer if he did not cooperate. Krych believes that some of those people only posed as inmates and were most likely operatives of the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Furthermore, in October 2017, shortly before his arrest, Krych was offered a deal by a well-known and dubious businessman, Krzysztof Porowski, who was charged at the beginning of the 2000s with, among others, the extortion of over PLN 6 million. The deal was supposed to protect Krych from the – then-unspecified – consequences awaiting him from the authorities in Poland. Porowski asked for EUR 1.5 million for this protection, indicating that “an umbrella” will be provided by someone who has been described by him as “a former prosecutor from Katowice, former high ranking official of the Internal Security Agency (ABW), current high ranking official of the CBA”. The offer was later repeated during Krych’s detention to one of his business partners, with the payment supposedly assuring his release.
Krych refused the offer and was released after 6 months, when the court changed his preventive measures from detention to a bail set at PLN 4 million (~EUR 942 000).
Initially the prosecution refused to comment on the case, however in September 2019, following Krych’s dramatic interview for Bloomberg (see Annex 1), the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Katowice released a statement. It was explained that Krych is facing charges of offering a bribe and his detention was decided by an independent court based on evidence. The supposed evidence in that case was, among others, bank statements and court-approved wiretaps.
Also, as reported by Onet, Krych claimed that shortly after his release he was approached by former Law and Justice spokesperson and business fixer Adam Hofman, who called Krych’s arrest “their f**k-up” and presented an offer to arrange a meeting with Zbigniew Ziobro and his wife, Patrycja Kotecka-Ziobro. Hofman reportedly said: “Then you will explain everything to each other.” Again, Krych refused the offer. During their meeting, Hofman claimed Krych’s case was part of justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro’s and Law and Justice MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk’s ploy to gain influence in the Lesser Poland voivodeship by trying to decrease senator Kogut’s influence – Kogut was at that time the party leader and their political rival in the region. Hofman furthermore suggested that Przemysław Krych became an unfortunate casualty of this political play, albeit noting that Krych himself “was also a target in his own right”.
Following the Onet interview the prosecution issued a similar statement to the one in 2019.
Inaction and ridiculous deflection by the prosecution
Krzysztof Porowski did not react in any way to the information revealed by Krych. No legal steps (e.g., a libel lawsuit) were taken by him. Similarly, according to Krych’s best knowledge, no investigation into possible extortion/influence peddling involving Porowski and/or Hofman – despite it being publicised by the media – has been launched so far.
Instead, an investigation into “fabricating false evidence and directing false suspicion at third parties” (Art. 235 kk, supposedly by Krych in the form of a press interview) was initiated in May 2022 by prosecutor Agnieszka Wichary of the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Katowice. She summoned the investor to appear as a witness. Krych’s version of events is documented by his company’s records and other witnesses (participants of the meeting with Porowski).
The modus operandi employed by Porowski and Hofman does not appear to be an isolated case. According to Krych, an equivalent attempt at extortion took place on Porowski’s part in relation to another entrepreneur. Also, Adam Hofman played a similar role, offering meetings with ruling camp members in his dealings with Leszek Czarnecki (see case of Leszek Czarnecki and GetBack).
The case of Przemysław Krych is handled by prosecutor Leszek Sroka, Head of the Fiscal Crime Department of the Katowice Provincial Prosecutor’s Office. The same prosecutor was responsible, i.a., for charging opposition senator Jan Bury of corruption – a case ongoing since 2015 where the court found no grounds for arrest requested by the prosecutor. In 2016 Sroka was delegated to the special prosecution department for countering organised crime and corruption in state institutions, dubbed ‘Ziobro’s stormtroopers’ by the media.
The case of alleged corruption related to senator Kogut, Przemysław Krych and other supposedly involved individuals was originally handled by the District Court in Nowy Sącz. Subsequently, it was transferred to different district courts in Katowice and eventually to the District Court in Cracow. The court proceedings have not formally commenced as the Cracow court is yet to decide on certain procedural issues.