Poland’s first lady says CRH gave cash to charity

Poland’s first lady says CRH gave cash to charity
Published: 28 June 2005

 The wife of Poland’s President, Jolanta Kwasniewska, has confirmed that a
children’s charity she founded was the beneficiary of a €125,000 donation
from the construction group CRH, Ireland’s biggest company. She strenuously
denies there was anything underhand about this.Ms Jolanta Kwasniewska, says
that through intermediaries, CRH made the contribution in 1997.

A spokesperson for CRH last night denied any direct or indirect payment or
any authorisation of payment to any Polish government representative or
official. However, the group did say it was aware of the reported
allegations about the privatisation of Cementownia Ozarow in Poland in 1995
but it was not clear to CRH that any such allegation was made.

In a statement it said that "if such an allegation was made it is absolutely
without foundation. 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." The
spokesperson added that the only connection CRH had with Polish businessman
Marek Dochnal (who claims he paid a bribe of almost €827,000 on behalf of
CRH to a Polish government minister) was in relation to an initial 30pc
stake purchased by CRH in an investment firm, Holding Cement Polski (HCP)
from Larchmont Capital in 1995. Dochnal was a principal shareholder in
Larchmont Capital. HCP went on to acquire 75pc of shares in Cementownia
Ozaria from the Polish State Treasury in October 1995.

During a hearing before a Polish parliamentary inquiry Ms Kwasniewska
rejected any suggestion there was a connection between CRH’s takeover of a
cement factory two years earlier at Ozarow and its charitable donation of
500,000 zlotys, equivalent to just under €125,000. In the published list of
donations, this appears to be the highest single donation in 1997.

According to documents released by her charity, the money was paid through
three intermediary companies, named as NCC, AB and J.S. Ms Kwasniewska told
the inquiry that at that time of the controversial takeover, Lech Walesa was
still Poland’s President, not her husband, and that there was no way the
subsequent charitable aid could be linked to the takeover of the country’s
largest cement works by CRH.

She explained that in 1997, during an official visit to Ireland by her
husband, the current President, Aleksander Kwasniewska, she had her own
itinerary and met executives from CRH where she discussed her own charity
work. A short time later, her foundation, "Communication without barriers"
received the financial backing. Ms Kwasniewska has used her role as First
Lady to champion the charity and has been honoured in six countries for her
work.

Among the organisation’s goals is to help sick and handicapped Polish
children go on respite holiday breaks in other European countries and it has
also helped fund hospital expansion schemes in Poland.

As the country gets ready for an election, all parties are throwing
accusations of bribery and collaboration linked to the former secret
services of communist Poland. The acquisition of the stake in Cementownia
was one of the key planks in the expansion of the CRH business in Poland
(Original report: Irish Independent)