Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Corruption Among Post-Communists

A few years ago, an up-and-coming member of the post-Communist SLD party was asked what his goals are as a politician in Poland. His answer? "I want to become a millionaire within a couple years and a multi-millionaire down the line." Nothing about helping Poland, making things better. Not a snippet of idealism. (Forgive my naivety)

And no wonder. SLD, a successor of the repressive communist party that controlled Poland for decades, was brimming with corruption. It seemed to be full of two types of people: the old commies and the new careerist just ready to grab power and take advantage of it.

Today's Dziennik is running a great piece of investigative journalism which unveils, at least in a small part, of how things worked when SLD was in power just a few years ago. According to an article by Robert Zielinski (link in Polish), a company registered by the daughter-in-law of Leszek Miller, who headed the SLD-led cabinet, made a whopping 4.3 million zloty (around $1.5 million) on a sale of a stake in Internet portal Wirtualna Polska, without investing a penny. The stake was bought from a Polish investor and later unloaded to a mysterious firm registered in the Bahamas.

There's a lot more to this story, and I hope more will come out. But an investigation into this has been going on for years, so I won't hold my breath.

And don't forget that Miller ultimately lost his post in large part because of another sleaze scandal involving a bribery shakedown by one of his cronies.

It's just a shame that the current government never really followed up on promises of cleaning up corruption. There's still plenty young people looking to make millions through politics.

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