Prosecutors probe alleged US$1m CRH privatisation bribe

Prosecutors probe alleged US$1m CRH privatisation bribe
Published: 07 July 2005

According to the Irish Times, Polish prosecutors are investigating a privatisation deal at the centre of allegations that a US$1m bribe was paid on behalf of CRH, Ireland’s largest company, to a former Polish government minister. Denis Staunton reports  Malgorzata Glapska-Dudkiewicz, a public prosecutor in Lodz, said in a statement to The Irish Times that her office’s organised crime section was investigating the deal which saw CRH take a strategic, minority shareholding in the privatised plant.  "I can confirm that the Second Department for Organised Crime is conducting an investigation into the privatisation of Cementownia Ozarow in 1995," she said. 

Marek Dochnal, a former lobbyist, has told a parliamentary inquiry that he paid a bribe worth almost US$1m on behalf of CRH to Wieslaw Kaczmarek, who was minister for privatisation at the time, in connection with the privatisation of Cementownia Ozarow.  In a statement last night, CRH said it would co-operate with the investigation. 

"CRH did not pay money directly or indirectly, or authorise any such payment, to any Polish government representative or official, and has no knowledge of any such payment having been made.  "In the event of an investigation into the privatisation of Cementownia Ozarow, CRH will, of course, co-operate." 

Holding Cement Polski (HCP), an investment company in which CRH had a 30 per cent strategic holding, acquired a 75 per cent shareholding in the privatised plant. CRH increased its stake in the plant over the next three years.  CRH has confirmed that it bought a stake in HCP from Larchmont Capital, in which Mr Dochnal was the principal shareholder, in 1995, but says it had no further connection with him. 

Poland’s first lady, Jolanta Kwasniewska, told the parliamentary inquiry last month that Mr Dochnal helped to arrange a meeting with CRH two years later, during which the company agreed to donate Euro 25,000 to her charity.  The inquiry heard from a statement made to prosecutors by Zdzislaw Zaryczny, a former associate of Mr Dochnal’s, who claimed to have arranged another meeting between Mrs Kwasniewska and CRH, during which the company made a further charitable donation of Euro 5000. 

"I helped organise Mrs Kwasniewska’s visit to the Walbrzych province. During this whole visit Mrs Kwasniewska was accompanied by a representative of CRH, Mr Declan Doyle. Towards the end of the visit at the castle at Ksiaz dinner was given, financed by Larchmont Capital. In the course of it Mrs Kwasniewska accepted gifts for the foundation: 100,000 zlotys (Euro 5000) from CRH . . ." he said