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Poland's Tusk calls prosecutor over potential Orlen scandal

Published 29/04/2024, 12:43
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk walks to meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland, April, 23, 2024. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo

WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland's prime minister said on Monday he had called the country's chief prosecutor and secret services coordinator to discuss potential links between the former CEO of oil refiner Orlen, Daniel Obajtek, and Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Obajtek responded on social media platform X that Prime Minister Donald Tusk was "looking for scandals where there are none".

State-controlled Orlen said last week it had cancelled contracts signed by its Swiss trading unit OTS to buy Venezuelan oil and refined products after losing around 1.6 billion zloty ($397 million) on prepayments for deliveries it never received.

"Today I asked ... for a visit regarding a key issue for state security: the billion-dollar loss and possible links with Hezbollah of the former head of Orlen. Poles must know the truth," Tusk wrote on X, referring to his requests to the chief prosecutor and the secret services coordinator.

The cabinet member responsible for coordinating Poland's special services, Tomasz Siemoniak, told broadcaster TVN24 that the meeting with Tusk would take place on Monday evening.

"This will be an opportunity to show the prime minister what the state of the six investigations into Orlen is and how the prosecutor general and I see these matters," Siemoniak said.

Orlen set up the Switzerland-based trading business despite a warning by its internal security unit that it would pose risks of fraud and could expose the refiner to a breach of oil sanctions, news website Onet reported on Monday.

Onet also said the former CEO of OTS, referred to as Samer A. due to Polish privacy laws, was suspected by Orlen's internal security unit of contacts with Hezbollah.

Orlen declined in an emailed statement to comment on media reports, but said it confirms that the company "operates appropriate units whose task is to verify potential investments and contractors".

Onet quoted a statement by Obajtek that said the decision to establish OTS was made by Orlen's whole 11-person management board and was in line with its corporate governance procedures.

Orlen's shares closed 1.2% higher on Monday, extending year-to-date gains to 4%.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk walks to meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland, April, 23, 2024. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo

Samer A. has been charged in a separate probe with VAT frauds between 2008-2013, a regional prosecutor in Bydgoszcz said on Monday. He was detained by police and questioned by a prosecutor in February, and released on bail, the prosecutor added.

Obajtek said in his post on X that Tusk's party was concerned that Obajtek would run in upcoming elections to the European Parliament with the support of the opposition Law & Justice party.

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