Former Polish PM Donald Tusk was questioned by VAT fraud investigative commission

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Donald Tusk said VAT fraud was a problem when he was in charge as prime minister and still is a problem nowadays (video from 9 July, 2018)TVN24 International
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VAT fraud was a problem then and is a problem now but the current government is afraid to talk about these issues - said former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk on Monday before the VAT fraud investigative commission. He accused the current ruling party of manipulation and lies that "would pollute minds for long years to come" and that would make Poland its victim.

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The parliamentary VAT fraud investigative commission has questioned the former PM Donald Tusk for over four hours. The session was dominated by polemics and verbal disputes between the witness and chair of thye commission Marcin Horała (PiS). The former PM wasn't hiding that, in his opinion, the commission is politicized, works in the political interest of the ruling party and is an element of fight against the oppositon. He accused Horała of formulating suggestive questions.

Innuendo count

Horała was interrupting Tusk's comments by counting numbers out loud. As he explained, witnesses have a tendency to avoid answering questions by attacking the current government and by off-topic, political comments which, in his view, puts the commission in a difficult position; the committee either loses time by responding to provocation or ignores it, which in turn creates an impression of the provocation being true. That's why Horała decided to count what he referred to as "political innuendo unrelated with the topic of the commission's work". The chairman ended his count at 28.

Tusk said that the VAT fraud was a problem then and is a problem now. "Only that I would never come up an idea to postulate a thesis that prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki and PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński are stealing and robbing Poles of billions of zlotys. On the other hand, on many occasions I have heard such insinuations about myself and about my cabinet," said the former prime minister.

He also asked the chairman if there was any censorship regarding discussion about VAT fraud between 2015-2019, during PiS rule. "I under no illusion. I'm not here to believe in your good intentions to find the truth. Your panicky fear to discuss VAT fraud that took place during your term clearly shows your true intentions," said the former prime minister.

Horała said that "he must make sure that the commission carries out the task it was called up for by the Sejm and not to become an arena for political shows".

"I wasn't intrusive when it comes to this hearing, I wasn't pushing the honourable commission to question me, I don't treat my today's presence here as an arena performance," Tusk replied.

The former PM expressed his belief that the parliamentary majority not only determined the scope of the commission's work, but also the "final verdict". "Only due to my inherent decency and respect for law will I treat what's happening here seriously," said Tusk.

"Poland wasn't helpless"

He argued with Horała over the data on the VAT gap. He pointed out that the European Commission's report providing data about the widest VAT gap was published in 2014, the last year of his duty as prime minister. He admitted that this doesn't excuse him from being responsible for his cabinet between 2007 and 2014.

"I would like us, however, not to fall under a false impression that you're suggesting, that the European Commission had been alarming about extremely critical situation in Poland, because that would simply be untrue," the former PM said.

According to Tusk, it wasn't that Poland "was helpless in the fight against VAT fraud and everyone else managed so well". "It was quite the opposite. In the whole European Union, even the best-organised countries failed to deal with VAT fraud, especially in the early stages," the former PM said. He reassured that no one was more interested in quick elimination of VAT fraud than his government, as his cabinet's financial capabilities depended on it.

He admitted that the very fact that VAT fraud was taking place was a knowledge so common that he wouldn't even think about where he found out about it. He was rather expecting, as he said, that the minister of finance would do something about it. He also said that he had been aware about the large-scale fraud in the fuel business, but added that the ministry of finance didn't neglect this information.

He underscored that a responsible government cannot react with hasty legislation only because a particular group of businessmen, even with best intentions, signals a problem crucial for them.

The former PM also said that the information he was receiving from representatives of the fuel business suggested that "the situation was better in 2014 than in 2012". He added that by applying certain solutions "significant progress in tightening the VAT system has been made in 2015".

Morawiecki and Kamiński

Tusk was asked by Zbigniew Konwiński from PO-KO if Mateusz Morawiecki, once a member of PM Tusk's economy council had put forward any solutions to tighten the VAT gap. "No. PM Morawiecki wasn't the most active or most creative member of the economy council. He was rather moderate in expressing his opinions - that was my impression," Tusk said.

He also stressed that he "never expressed expectations" towards Morawiecki. He recollected that during the time of PO-PSL coalition, Morawiecki was "quite close to a formal role, as a member of the economy council", as well as "in very close relation" with the council's chairman, Jan Krzysztof Bielecki. "Frankly speaking, his presence so was intensive and trustworthy that I even considered making him the finance minister in my cabinet," Tusk added.

Konwiński also asked Tusk if Mariusz Kamiński, the then head of the CBA (Central Anti-corruption Bureau) approached him with any suggestions on how to tackle the VAT fraud. According to the former PM, what Kamiński was occupied with at the time had nothing to do with real anti-corruption activities. Tusk expressed his opinion that "the case of Mr (Marek) Falenta, the wire-tapping scandal, clearly shows that in this regard Mariusz Kamiński is tireless; that is in using wire-taps, tapes and secret agents in the fight against political competition".

Tusk expressed his hope that the chairman of the commission "would lead to the questioning if a very important person in that regard, namelt Mariusz Kamiński". As he stressed, he is very interested in what Kamiński would have to say "about his indecision regarding this matter during the two years he spend as a cabinet member".

Mind polluting lies

The witness accused the current government of manipulation and lies that, in his opinion, are useful during electoral campaign, but also have consequences because they pollute minds for years to come. This waqy he referred to the slogan "Poland in ruins". "This lie carries along consequences much worse than us wasting out time for this undertaking called the VAT commission. These consequences go beyond comparison and are much more dangerous for Poland and its future," he added.

"Such activities in the public sphere are like the smog in the air, they pollute minds for long years to come. Today, you're predecessors may become victims, tomorrow you may become victims, however, Poland will be the real victim in the end," he warned.

Donald Tusk was the co-founder and the chairman of the Civic Platform (2003-2014), as well as twice the head of the PO-PSL coalition cabinet. First time in 2007-2011 and the second between 2011-2014.

Autor: gf / Źródło: TVN24 News in English, PAP