Mateusz Morawiecki purchased 15 hectares of land form the Catholic Church in 2002. Daily “Gazeta Wyborcza” claims he obtained the land at a fraction of the market price. The PM’s attorneys are to demand that the paper sets the record straight on its story.
Polish leading pro-opposition liberal daily “Gazeta Wyborcza” published extensive material on Monday on a land purchase the Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made back in 2002. The land was bought from the Church. Mr Morawiecki was a provincial councillor in the Wrocław area at the time.
The price paid for the 15 hectares of land was PLN 700,000 (EUR 163,000). The paper alleges that a surveyor had evaluated the land to have been worth four million PLN (EUR 930,000) back in 1999. The reason for the high evaluation was that the land was, according to the Wrocław urban plan, to be used for a major road project.
In 2006 the internal security agency (ABW) questioned Mr Morawiecki on the transaction. He testified that he had been informed about the land by Wrocław Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz. According to a statement made by the Prime Minister’s Office the land is now the sole property of the PM’s wife who “found out about the land from a colleague who worked in real estate.”
PM demands the paper puts the record straight
The Prime Minister’s Office has accused “Gazeta Wyborcza” of acting in bad faith and attempting to present the PM and his wife in a negative light. The article is said to contain inaccuracies and thye PM and his wife are to instigate legal action to demand the paper puts the record straight.
According to the PM the paper has misrepresented his wife’s account of the transaction and has failed to mention that the prices of neighbouring land plots were similar to the price paid by the Morawiecki family for theirs. It also fails to point out that the land is classified as agricultural, implying a substantial cost of changing its status. The story is also accused of twisting facts with regard to the urban plan. The urban plan was approved in 2003, after the land was purchased.
The PM’s attorney Dariusz Tokarczuk announced that a lawsuit against “Gazeta Wyborcza”, its chief editors, the wyborcza.pl website and the article’s author will be submitted in a matter of days.
The lawsuit reads that the information presented in the article is untrue, incongruent, incomplete, unfounded and thus infringing upon personal rights. As indicated, the alleged actual worth of the land has been misevaluated at PLN 70 mln (EUR 16.29 mln) because neither the change that occurred over 17 years in the land’s worth nor the cost of the land’s extraction from agricultural production for the sake of future investments have been included.
According to the lawsuit’s author, the claim that Mr and Mrs Morawiecki gained the property rights is unwarranted because the purchased land was not public property in 2002 when Mateusz Morawiekci and his wife bought it as a private party. The claim indicated that Iwona Morawiecka provided “Gazeta Wyborcza” with sufficient responses, however, they were not included in the article.
Moreover, within the lawsuit, the PM’s wife did declare that if the construction of the roads outlined in the area development plan were to be initiated on the land, she would sell it at the purchase price including inflation, and put acquired money to social purposes. Separation of property between PM and his wife
The PM, asked in an interview with the conservative pro-government weekly “Sieci” about property he owns admitted that he has earned substantial sums during his 18 years in the world of finance. He said that he had not been investing his money abroad but had instead invested in real estate.
Mr Morawiecki also said that the division of the Morawiecki’s family estate had taken place because once he became the PM he did not want to be engaged in any way in commercial activity. “All property that was income generating was signed over to my wife. She conducts commercial activity, including renting property” explains the PM.
Timing no accident?
The story comes out just six days ahead of the European elections which will be a test of popularity of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) and the government led by PM Morawiecki.
Gazeta Wyborcza argues that it is acting in the public interest in exposing that the PM has invested in land which, it alleges, he obtained at a knock-down price. This is meant to portray the PM as a beneficiary of local cronyism involving ties between local politicians and the clergy.
The PM will be very keen to demonstrate that there was nothing untransparent about the transaction and will argue that for those who save money land can be a very worthwhile investment. However, clearly this is not a welcome development for either the PM or his party ahead of Sunday’s elections.