Polish police arrest four Finance Ministry officials bribetaking

Polish police have arrested four Finance Ministry officials who are suspected of taking bribes from gangsters in return for tax exemptions, a prosecutor said Wednesday. The arrests took place Tuesday at the ministry's Warsaw headquarters and at two other locations, and more arrests were planned, a spokeswoman for Warsaw prosecutors, Renata Mazur, told The Associated Press. "This is the first case on such a scale at a ministry," Mazur said.

The arrests come amid a drive by the new governing party, Law and Justice, to wipe out the corruption that has flourished in Poland since the end of communism 17 years ago. The prosecutors allege that between 1993 and 2004, the four suspects took bribes of up to 130,000 zlotys ( Ђ 33,000; US$43,000) in exchange for granting tax exemptions or forgiving overdue taxes of car dealers and businesses largely linked to gangsters.

In one case, they allegedly forgave 35 million zlotys ( Ђ 9 million, US$11 million) in taxes owed by a former senator and businessman, identified only as Henryk S. Authorities identified those arrested as ministry advisers Slawomir M. and Andrzej Z., who were formerly department directors; Hanna K., the head of a tax advisory office; and Zofia F., the head of a tax office in Warsaw .

Police also arrested a fifth suspect, Jerzy W., the retired head of a tax office that came under the ministry's authority. No surnames were released in line with Poland 's privacy law. All except Hanna K. face charges of taking bribes and could face up to eight years in prison if convicted, Mazur said. Hanna K. faces a charge of abusing her position and could face up to three years, reports the AP.


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