Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau has faced calls to step down amidst a growing scandal involving allegations of visa bribery at the nation’s consulates. Despite the escalating controversy, Rau has insisted that he will not resign from his position.
The scandal first came to light in late August when Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk, who was responsible for consular and visa matters, was dismissed by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki for a “lack of satisfactory cooperation.” Following Wawrzyk’s firing, Poland’s Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) launched an investigation into his activities.
After an investigation by Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, it was revealed that the corruption allowed tens of thousands of immigrants to enter the European Union through international recruitment companies. Additionally, Rzeczpospolita media outlet reported that the Foreign Ministry system enabled individuals to bypass the regular visa application process by paying bribes of $4,000 to $5,000.
Opposition Civic Coalition alliance conducted a parliamentary probe that suggested approximately 350,000 visas issued to migrants from African and Middle Eastern countries could be under suspicion.
In an effort to address the fallout from the scandal, Rau stated on Monday that he does not believe he is complicit and even went as far as to claim that the scandal “does not exist.” While he acknowledged “irregularities” in the issuance of visas, he maintained that only around 200 documents were involved. Rau also highlighted that this number is significantly smaller compared to the two million visas issued by Poland over the past 30 months, mostly to Ukrainians and Belarusians.
In response to opposition leader Donald Tusk’s assertion that the allegations represented the “biggest scandal of the 21st century in Poland,” Rau dismissed them as a “cascade of fake news.” The controversy has emerged just one month ahead of parliamentary elections in Poland, where the government has taken a hardline stance against immigration.
Senate Speaker Tomasz Grodzki, a member of the opposition, joined Tusk in condemning the alleged corruption, describing it as occurring at the highest levels of government.
Last week, Polish prosecutors detained seven suspects in connection with the case, none of whom were state officials. Among the key figures implicated is an Indian businessman named ‘Edgar K,’ who allegedly acted as an intermediary in the visa bribery scheme and was associated with Wawrzyk.
This scandal has brought significant attention to Poland, polarizing public opinion and raising questions about the integrity of the country’s consular processes. The ongoing investigation aims to shed light on the true extent of the visa bribery and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.