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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Property declarations. Punishment for MP Łukasz Mejza for not making a statement

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The Presidium of the Sejm imposed a reprimand on MP Łukasz Meya, who did not submit the legally required property declaration, tvn24.pl found out. – If he was an opposition deputy, I guess that a notification to the prosecutor’s office would already be ready – comments Deputy Speaker of the Sejm Piotr Zgorzelski. However, according to experts, the parliamentarian is not criminally responsible for failing to submit asset declarations.

30-year-old Mejza, previously a councilor in the Lubuskie Voivodeship Sejmik, took over as a deputy after Jolanta Fedak’s death in December 2020. He took his oath only on March 16.

Although he entered parliament from the PSL lists, he did not join the parliamentary caucus and is a non-attached MP.

– From the very first day, when he appeared in the Sejm, he said that he was not interested in cooperation with the PSL, although he was selected from our lists. And since then he votes mainly with the government – tells us one of the peasants.

A rebuke to the envoy

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In June, the problem of Mejza’s failure to submit an asset declaration was dealt with by the Sejm’s regulatory committee. During the debates, the deputies decided (seven to six against) that the parliamentarian should be reprimanded. The head of the Chancellery of the Sejm, Agnieszka Kaczmarska, informed that the deputy had been informed about the obligation to submit a declaration and refused to implement it.

On August 11, the matter was dealt with by the Presidium of the Sejm, i.e. the marshal and deputy marshals, and punished the deputy in accordance with the decision of the bylaws committee.

– The Presidium of the Sejm resolved to reprimand MP Łukasz Mejza for failing to fulfill his obligation under Article 35 (3) 2 of the Act on the Exercise of the Mandate of Deputy and Senator – this is the document signed by the Deputy Speaker of the Sejm Małgorzata Gosiewska, the copy of which is kept by the editorial office.

But while the punishment of “rebuke” sounds serious, it will actually be purely symbolic. Mejza is not a professional MP, so his salary cannot be limited, which is usually associated with this form of penalty.

One statement is missing

What exactly is the article of the law quoted by the deputy speaker about? These are detailed rules regulating what and when exactly property declarations must be submitted by each parliamentarian.

According to them, Mejza should make two statements. The first by the day of taking the oath and the second – by April 30 – which would document his property “as of December 31 of the previous year, including a copy of the annual tax return”.

3. The asset declaration shall be submitted in two copies to the Marshal of the Sejm or the Speaker of the Senate, respectively, within the following deadlines: election of a deputy or senator and information on the possession of property of the State Treasury or local government; 2) by April 30 of each year, as at December 31 of the previous year, enclosing a copy of the annual tax return (PIT); 3) within one month of ordering new elections to the Sejm and Senate.

But MP Mejza only made a statement – today available on the website of the Sejm – in which he showed the property he had on the day he took office. That is, instead of two declarations documenting successively the state of property as at December 31, 2020 and March 16, 2021, he submitted only one.

No notice

– If the opposition deputy did so, the notification about the commission of the crime would already be in the prosecutor’s office, and the agents of the Central Anticorruption Bureau would be working hard – comments Deputy Speaker of the Sejm Piotr Zgorzelski (PSL).

Deputy Michał Szczerba (Koalicja Obywatelska) has a similar view: – Failure to submit an asset declaration is not only an unethical act, but also a failure to fulfill obligations by a public official. This is lawlessness in its pure form and one may ask whether it is not that the majority of the Seym is hanging on to a crime? – says.

MP Szczerba means that Łukasz Mejza votes in accordance with the government’s majority. It is thanks to his vote, as well as the second non-attached MP Zbigniew Ajchler and the members of the Kukiz circle that it was possible to find the majority necessary to vote, inter alia, lex TVN. On the same day, he supported with his vote the motion for a loud “reassumption” of the vote.

Earlier, following the ruling majority, he voted for the National Reconstruction Program.

Wojtunik: a gap in the law

Paweł Wojtunik, who, as the head of the Central Anticorruption Bureau for six years was responsible for settling asset declarations, describes the situation as “a loophole in the law”.

– While there is a clear legal basis for criminal prosecution for the false filling in of the declaration of financial interests, it is difficult to find one if the deputy does not submit the declaration. I must also say that I do not remember such a situation, it is a precedent – says Wojtunik, who headed the anti-corruption service from 2009 to 2015.

In the first case – a false declaration of property – it is article 233 of the Criminal Code, which provides for a penalty from six months up to eight years in prison. He is also indicated by the Act on the Exercise of the Mandate of Deputy and Senator.

8. Failure to submit an asset declaration results in statutory liability and the loss of the right to a salary until such declaration is submitted. 9. Providing untruth or concealing the truth in the asset declaration results in liability pursuant to Art. 233 § 1 of the Criminal Code.

– One can consider the application of article 231 of the Penal Code, that is “exceeding the powers or failing to fulfill the obligation”, but in my opinion this is a questionable basis – comments Wojtunik, the possibility of prosecuting a deputy who does not make a statement at all.

During the meeting of the regulations committee, the deputies discussed whether the Maya was obliged to submit this document at all. The vice-chairman of the commission, Jarosław Urbaniak (PO), explained that on December 31, Mejza did not even know that he would become a deputy, so the obligation did not apply to him. Ultimately, however, the majority of committee members decided that the deputy was obliged to submit a declaration.

The Banas case

But there are also other contexts of this situation, as noted by MP Szczerba.

– I cannot imagine that, as Mejza, he will decide about the criminal liability of other people, for example in the famous case of the immunity of the President of the Supreme Audit Office. After all, the whole case concerns alleged irregularities in his financial declarations. As you can see in the PiS state they are equal and more equal. You can be a holy cow when this system of power is ensured, he comments.

We asked The Chancellery of the Sejm asked about the property declarations of MP Mejza on Monday. At the time of publishing this article, we have not received any responses.

The silence of the deputy

We also wanted to talk to MP Mejza about why he did not submit the legally required property declaration. He picked up the phone, but didn’t find time to talk. Instead, he asked for specific questions to be sent to him. Despite repeated requests, he did not send any replies.

From zero to millionaire

We looked at his parliamentary declaration of assets – still only the one submitted until the day of the oath. It shows that the MP runs a sole proprietorship in the marketing of new technologies, which last year brought him just over a million zlotys in income. At the same time, he also had 450,000 savings.

The MP also showed shares in five companies, the oldest of which started operating in 2019. According to what they declare, they operate in the construction industry, tourism, advertising and new technologies.

The comparison with the financial statements made by Łukasz Mejza as a councilor of the Lubuskie voivodeship looks interesting. His statement for 2018 is available in the online archive – that is, after the full term of office of the voivodeship councilor. He then declared that he had put aside 35,000 and 1,500 euros. He only had four shares, worth PLN 400, in one company. The total amount of income is about 100,000. He was also in debt: six loans totaled almost 500,000. After three years – as is clear from the available parliamentary declaration of assets – half of this sum was left to be repaid, in only two loans, because he repaid the rest.

Main photo source: Rafał Guz / PAP

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