Poland’s former deputy foreign minister was arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into the country’s cash-for-visas scandal, Warsaw’s anti-corruption agency said Wednesday.
Piotr Wawrzyk, who served as deputy foreign minister from January 2021 until August last year, was detained and charged with exceeding his authority in handling ministry documents, Poland’s Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) said in a statement. Authorities also searched his home for potential evidence.
Wawrzyk’s arrest comes amid a fierce clash over the rule of law in Poland, with the country’s new government under Prime Minister Donald Tusk pledging to hold to account the previous Law and Justice (PiS) administration, which lost power in a general election last October.
The cash-for-visas scandal was revealed last August, when Polish media reported that thousands of non-EU citizens, mainly from Asia and Africa, paid to jump the visa queue at Polish consulates around the world. About 250,000 visas were allegedly issued in return for bribes, according to the media reports, with opposition MPs at the time putting the figure as high as 350,000.
Tusk, at the time Poland’s opposition leader, called it “probably the biggest scandal in Poland in the 21st century.”
In a statement, the CBA said its investigations “concern, among others, making promises to provide financial benefits in exchange for intermediation in matters related to obtaining residence permits … as well as unlawfully exerting influence on the course of issuing the permits.”
Eight other individuals have been charged in the case, the CBA said.
Wawrzyk pledged to cooperate fully with authorities but maintained his innocence in a statement to local media through his lawyer. He could face up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.