The Internal Security Agency acting upon request of the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin arrested Bartosz Kramek, an activist and husband of Lyudmyla Kozlovska, President of the Open Dialogue Foundation, who was expelled from Poland three years ago. What were the allegations? They were related to some invoices issued nine years ago.
As Ms Kozlovska explained to Onet, her husband’s arrest was “part of an ongoing persecution campaign aimed at herself and her husband in connection with their commitment to the struggle for democracy and independent courts in Poland”.
On Friday, the 48-hour period following Kramek’s detention will expire. By that time, the investigators must lodge a request for an arrest warrant with the competent court.
The Prosecutor’s Office: VAT invoices for unspecified consulting services
Bartosz Kramek was detained on Wednesday, 23 June, at a hotel in Warsaw. He had arrived just a day before from Brussels, where he is currently residing.
Karol Blajerski, Spokesman for the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin, told the mass media that Bartosz K. was going to be charged with providing false representations regarding the consultancy services specified in 46 VAT invoices issued to 11 international companies, and in the total amount of ca. PLN 5.3 million, and with concealing the illegal origin of such funds by, for example, transferring them for the benefit of the Open Dialogue Foundation and other entities.
According to Blajerski, such offences were committed for the purpose of financial gain.
According to the investigators, Bartosz Kramek, as President of Silk Road in 2012–16 allegedly issued a number of VAT invoices for unspecified consultancy services described as “consultancy services”, “IT services” or “VOIP services”. The investigators from Lublin claim that his consumers only included “entities operating in the so-called tax havens such as Belize or Seychelles, or entrepreneurs conducting sham business activity at virtual domiciles”.
According to the District Prosecutor’s Office in Lublin, “as a matter of fact, Silk Road has neither rendered any services in favour of those customers, nor conducted any business with them”.
“The enterprises involved in the illegal process were incorporated by professional agents in Latvia and Estonia. Their corporate bank accounts were maintained in, for example, Latvia, and their actual beneficiaries included, for example, Russian and Ukrainian citizens,” says Karol Blajerski, Public Prosecutor.
The investigators assert that the funds gathered by Silk Road have been transferred in favour of the Open Dialogue Foundation.
The Open Dialogue: “For us it is just another manifestation of the politically motivated persecution targeted at our Foundation.”
According to Onet, Bartosz Kramek was detained in connection with the investigation launched against Kozlovska’s Foundation.
The ODF commented on Kramek’s detention on Twitter: “For us it is just another instance of a politically motivated persecution campaign targeted at the Foundation by institutions serving the interests of Law and Justice.”
“The Open Dialogue has become a target of the ruling party because of its critical approach in 2017. Our finances have been ‘thoroughly scrutinised’ by the Internal Security Agency since 2018. Many other proceedings have been instituted against us too. Thus far, all resolutions have been in our favour. So this time it will be the same. Our operations are lawful. We won’t let them intimidate us.”
The state ruled by the Law and Justice has struck at Lyudmyla Kozlovska, her husband and the Open Dialogue Foundation.
The Open Dialogue Foundation presided by Lyudmyla Kozlovska was founded in 2009. The Foundation’s objectives include protection of human rights, democracy and rule of law in the post-soviet region. Until 2017 the ODF was best known for its commitment to Ukrainian affairs: they helped equip Ukrainians fighting Eastern rebels with bulletproof wests and helmets, established the Ukrainian World Centre in the heart of Warsaw, and took efforts in order to secure the release of Nadia Savchenko, a Ukrainian pilot, from a Russian prison.
Things changed in July 2017, when, during mass protests against the Law and Justice’s new law on the Supreme Court in Poland, Bartosz Kramek published an article titled: “Let the state stand: let’s switch off the government!” Based on the Euromaidan experience, Kramek advocated for civil disobedience, i.e. general strikes, and a tent city in front of Jarosław Kaczyński’s house.
Since that time, Kramek and ODF have been regarded as a public enemy by the government and its followers. The state tried to make their life harder using various means of oppression such as tax audits or attempts to appoint an external controller.
Finally, the state struck at Lyudmyla Kozlovska, ODF President and Kramek’s wife. The Internal Security Agency described her as a “threat to national security” and entered her on the EU list of persons banned from the Schengen zone. Kozlovska learnt about this move in August 2018 upon landing at the airport in Brussels. She was then deported to Kiev on the first flight.
The government has never revealed the reasons why Kozlovska was entered on the list, and only mentioned some financial irregularities. The former head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Witold Waszczykowski, accused Kozlovska of calling for the overthrow of the Polish government. The activist was also said to be working for Russia.
However, other EU countries quickly realised that such accusations have been fabricated, and the decision issued by the Polish government caused a reputational damage. First of all, Kozlovska was granted a German visa and took part in a conference on populism in the Central Europe at the Bundestag. Then she visited Brussels (as a speaker at the European Parliament), United Kingdom (House of Commons), France (Council of Europe in Strasbourg) and Switzerland (UN domicile in Geneva).
In March this year, the Voivodship Administrative Court once again reversed the decision on Lyudmyla Kozlovska’s expulsion from the territory of Poland.
According to the Court, the Office for Foreigners did not have sufficient evidence to prohibit Kozlovska from entry to the territory of Poland. The Court also urged the Office for Foreigners to reconsider Kozlovska’s request to be struck from the list of undesirable persons.