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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 19:59 GMT
Polish police chief resigns
Polish police
The allegations surround tipping criminals off

The chief of Poland's police force has resigned following accusations linking him to a political corruption scandal involving the country's ruling party.

Commander General Antoni Kowalczyk is the latest high-level victim of the affair which has already forced the resignation of Poland's Deputy Interior Minister Zbigniew Sobotka.

The scandal centres on accusations that ruling party councillors in the small town of Starachowice - suspected of links with a criminal gang - were warned about a planned police raid on themselves and the gang.

Commander Kowalczyk came under increasing pressure to resign following revelations he changed his testimony in the scandal.

Poland's interior minister, Krzysztof Janik, survived a parliamentary vote of no-confidence on Wednesday after being accused by the opposition party of being central to the affair.

Poland's Prime Minister, Leszek Miller, called the vote "an unnecessary waste of energy on the part of parliament," Reuters news agency reported.

Chain

Mr Kowalczyk's superior, Zbigniew Sobotka, resigned following similar accusations, three weeks ago.

Polish police officers
The Polish police force has long been accused of corruption
Andrzej Jagiello, another deputy belonging to the same party, was said to have tipped the gangsters off about a planned police operation against them in a telephone call, which police recorded.

Mr Jagiello had said during the conversation he had been informed by Mr Sobotka.

He has since been charged and stripped of his parliamentary immunity.

The BBC's correspondent in Warsaw, Adam Easton, said the story has dominated the nation's headlines for months.

"In March this year, police raided a gang in Starachowice, 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of the capital, Warsaw, suspected of stealing cars," he said.

"Local councillors from the country's ruling Democratic Left Alliance, known as SLD, were also suspected of having connections to the gang."

Warning

Poland's police chief at first said he had not passed on information about the raid to Mr Sobotka.

Then the country's parliament heard he later changed his evidence admitting he had.

Earlier this month, prosecutors charged Mr Sobotka with divulging state secrets, obstructing justice and endangering the lives of the police officers.

Mr Sobotka denies passing on information to a local SLD politician who allegedly tipped off the councillors.

The scandal has once again revealed how deep the culture of corruption runs in Polish politics.

Prime Minister Miller has promised to crack down on political sleaze, but Mr Miller is already the most unpopular leader since the fall of the Communists in 1989, following a string of corruption scandals and rising unemployment.


SEE ALSO:
Poland's macabre scandal
08 Feb 02  |  Europe


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