Warsaw's EU bid tainted by 17m euro media bribery claim

Polish prosecutors questioned the editor of the country's leading paper yesterday at the start of an inquiry into bribery allegations that could bring down the government.

The investigation turns on allegations that a film producer, who worked on Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, acting for senior government figures, sought a ¤16.7m (£11m) bribe from the newspaper in exchange for changes to a contentious media ownership bill.

Lew Rywin, who also co-produced Roman Polanski's The Pianist, was accused of soliciting the bribe by Gazeta Wyborcza. Poland's biggest- selling daily reported that Mr Rywin approached its editor, Adam Michnik, in July and asked for the money in exchange for his help in lobbying the government on media ownership laws that privately owned media in Poland oppose.

The paper published what it said were secretly taped transcripts of the meeting in which Mr Rywin claimed to be acting on behalf of Leszek Miller, Poland's Prime Minister. Changes to the law could be achieved, Mr Michnik said he was told, if Gazeta toned down its criticism and handed over ¤16.7m. So far Mr Rywin has not commented on the allegations.

Yesterday Mr Miller told Polish radio that the allegations were "grotesque" and false. Bribery carries a prison term of up to three years. The Prime Minister said he had discussed the case with President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who also viewed the claims as "grotesque".

But the row generated by the corruption claims, coming only a year before Poland's accession to the European Union, could inflict long-term damage. Poland is the largest of 10 mostly former Communist bloc countries invited to join the EU in 2004. Poland's membership has been championed by Mr Miller's centre-left government but Polish voters have yet to be consulted in a referendum.

Mr Michnik is one of Poland's leading intellectuals. A dissident in the Communist period, he spent years in prison. He was a leader of the Solidarity movement and founded Gazeta in 1989. The paper has gone from being the first independent daily newspaper in the Soviet bloc to one of the biggest commercial successes of the new Europe, with a circulation in excess of 400,000.

But the paper has been outspoken in its criticism of Mr Miller's media ownership bill, which would prevent publishers of national newspaper titles from owning national broadcasters. Agora SA, the owner of Gazeta Wyborcza, wants to buy Polsat, a nationwide commercial television channel. Why the paper waited for five months before publishing the allegations has not been made clear.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
house + home
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Life and Style
Bats detect and react to wind speed and direction through sensors on their wings
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living