Producer of 'The Pianist' is jailed for corruption

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The Polish film maker Lew Rywin, co-producer of Schindler's List and The Pianist, was sentenced to two and a half years in jail yesterday after a high-profile corruption trial which shook Poland's political establishment and helped force the resignation of its Prime Minister.

The Polish film maker Lew Rywin, co-producer of Schindler's List and The Pianist, was sentenced to two and a half years in jail yesterday after a high-profile corruption trial which shook Poland's political establishment and helped force the resignation of its Prime Minister.

Rywin, 58, broke down in tears as the court convicted him of trying to trick Poland's best-known daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, out of $17.5m after claiming he could use his influence with leading politicians to change the law to permit its publisher, Agora SA, to buy a television station. But yesterday's court ruling exonerated the outgoing Polish premier, Leszek Miller, who has already promised to quit.

The scandal broke after a transcript of a secret tape-recording of Rywin's offer was published, plunging the left-of-centre government led by Mr Miller into deep crisis.

Assailed by a series of other problems, the Prime Minister's opinion poll rating slumped below 10 per cent and last month he was forced to announce that he will stand down on 2 May, the day after Poland joins the European Union.

Presenting the verdict, Judge Marek Celej said the court had concluded that Rywin approached the Agora president, Wanda Rapaczynska, and the editor of Gazeta Wyborcza, Adam Michnik, "to achieve financial gain". He "misled them because he claimed, against the facts, that he represented Mr Miller and a group holding power", the judge said.

The ruling will be welcomed by the political elite in Warsaw because it dismissed suggestions that senior officials were involved in a corruption scandal deciding, instead, that Rywin had lied when he claimed that he could have influenced the drafting of a media bill.

The presiding judge said the row was the result of "the behaviour of a specific person at specific moments", adding that the court was not taking "a position on any of the public comments made in this matter".

Rywin remains free pending an expected appeal against the Warsaw provincial court's verdict, which also included a $24,830 (£13,887) fine.

Speaking after the verdict, Mr Miller, who is due to attend his final summit of EU leaders on Saturday in Dublin, demanded an apology from his critics. "I would like to hear the word 'sorry' from all those who have continuously connected me with this affair," said the outgoing Polish premier, who testified at the trial.

The lengthy court case, and a separate parliamentary inquiry into the affair, put the spotlight on corruption as the country prepares to begin its membership of the EU on Saturday. The anti-corruption campaign became a major factor in the plunge in the popularity of Mr Miller and his party. The legacy of the political instability remains, with Mr Miller's nominated successor, Marek Belka, unsure whether his candidature will be approved by the Polish parliament.

Mr Miller's Democratic Left Alliance has sacked thousands of its members in a "clean hands" campaign to try to win back the trust of voters.

Prosecutors had pressed charges of influence peddling, claiming that Rywin acted on behalf of Mr Miller when he made his approach to Gazeta Wyborcza.

Rywindenied the charges, insisting that he was drunk when the crucial conversation with Mr Michnik was recorded. He claimed he was set up by Agora, and his lawyers said they planned to appeal. The prosecution's main piece of evidence against Rywin was a poor-quality recording made by Mr Michnik in which Rywin is heard making his proposal.

Prosecutors had demanded a three-year jail sentence for Rywin and a fine of $62,500.

Comments