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Will the “lex Tusk” committee interrogate Morawiecki? The Russian oligarch wanted to take over Zakłady Azotowe in Tarnów

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If the parliamentary commission is to investigate Russian influence in Poland in 2007-2022, it should deal with the attempt of a hostile takeover by the Russians of Zakłady Azotowe in Tarnów, the opposition believes. President Andrzej Duda also asks who in Poland facilitated these activities and lobbied for them. In 2012, the Russian oligarch Wieczysław Kantor bought Azoty shares en masse with the help of Dom Maklerski BZ WBK. Mateusz Morawiecki, in turn, was at the helm of BZ WBK.

It is not known whether, when announcing the intention to appoint a commission to track down people who support Russian influence in Poland, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki remembered the message from a decade ago, written in Cyrillic and sent straight from Novgorod Wielki, in which the Russians officially announced their intention to hostile takeover of Zakłady Azotowe in Tarnów with the help of Dom Maklerski BZ WBK.

– 99 percent of the shares in Dom Maklerski BZ WBK belonged to Bank Zachodni WBK, which, as we know, was headed by Mateusz Morawiecki – reminds Andrzej Domański, chief economist of the Civic Institute and an analyst of financial markets. – It certainly went through the desk of the bank’s president – adds Piotr Gajdziński, former spokesman for BZ WBK, author of the book “Delfin. Mateusz Morawiecki”.

The acquisition of Zakłady Azotowe was one of the hottest topics of summer 2012. At that time, the Russians from the Acron Group appeared in Poland – a company belonging to Wieczysław Kantor, who – after having obtained enfranchisement from post-Soviet chemical plants – is today one of Putin’s richest court oligarchs. – Acron has a very positive attitude towards Azoty. We want to be a strategic investor of the company, which will help it develop – said in July 2012 Vladimir Kantor, vice-president of the Acron Group, son of Wieczysław Kantor.

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Marta Wcisło on the bonus for the vice-president of AzotyTVN24

Opposition of Donald Tusk’s government

The plan of the Russians was to take over Tarnów nitrogen against the will of the company’s management board and with the open opposition of the Polish government, headed by Donald Tusk at the time. Zakłady Azotowe in Tarnów was and still is of strategic importance for Polish security. – Absolutely not, I repeat again: this is a hostile takeover attempt. I answer an attempt of a hostile takeover of a Russian company with a firm no, said Mikołaj Budzanowski, Minister of the Treasury in the government of Donald Tusk.

However, the opposition of the Tusk government did not discourage the Russians for a moment. They wanted to acquire 66 percent of shares in Azoty through a daughter company, but they needed a financial institution that was authorized to buy back its shares in Poland, and they found it in Poznań.

– If someone was selling a small district heating plant, he might not know, but not in this type of transaction. This is impossible – emphasizes Piotr Gajdziński, a former spokesman for BZ WBK, whose president was Mateusz Morawiecki at the time. Especially that the Russians were ready to spend billions of rubles to take over the strategic company, and their operation was already arousing great controversy at that time.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in the SejmPAP/Leszek Szymanski

What did Mateusz Morawiecki know?

Government spokesman Piotr Mueller was asked about the takeover of Zakłady Azotowe in Tuesday’s “Rozmowie Piaseckiego”. The host of the program pointed out that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tried to help take over the company. – Yes? But in what way? Be bold in making this thesis, Mueller replied to the question. Konrad Piasecki explained that “his bank was an intermediary in this transaction”. – Are you saying that Mateusz Morawiecki, the president of the bank, was not responsible for what his bank was doing? – the TVN24 journalist asked. – No no. I want you to boldly put forward the thesis that you are now manipulating, said the PiS politician.

Mateusz Morawiecki was the president of the management board of the entire BZ WBK Capital Group, in which the BZ WBK Brokerage House serving the Russian oligarch was a wholly owned subsidiary. Not only that, the current prime minister was also the president of its supervisory board.

– The fact that he did not hear about this transaction is as likely as the fact that Minister Błaszczak did not hear about the Russian missile that flew through half of Poland – comments Domański. – It’s absolutely out of the question. The chairman of the supervisory board knows about such transactions and has full control over them. It is definitely not possible, he believes.

A former associate of Mateusz Morawiecki adds that the then president of the bank could block or end the cooperation of the Brokerage House with the Russians at any time, but such an order was not given, because brokerage activities for them were carried out to the very end. – At the end of all this is that CEOs and mainly managers get bonuses from the profit – points out Gajdziński.

In February 2012, Mateusz Morawiecki was also one of the members of the Economic Council of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. – In our opinion, promoting Russian investment in this field, in this particular project, is against our national interests – said Donald Tusk in April 2013.

"Lex Tusk" with the signature of President Andrzej Duda. "This is the absolute destruction of everything he has achieved in some way"

“Lex Tusk” signed by President Andrzej Duda. “This is the absolute destruction of everything he has achieved in some way”Arleta Zalewska/Fakty TVN

Shares of the Russian oligarch in the company

Ultimately, the Russian plan was not entirely successful. After the intervention of Donald Tusk’s government, the Russian oligarch finally managed to acquire about 20 percent of shares in Tarnów-based Azoty, which is not enough to take control of the company, but enough to influence it.

Left-wing deputies point out that the oligarch has influence on issues related to the strategic activities of the company and at the same time inform about submitting a request to investigate the matter to the Supreme Audit Office.

After the merger of the nitrogen plants in Tarnów, Police and Puławy, Wieczysław Kantor holds one-fifth of shares in the entire Grupa Azoty. At the same time, he is under EU sanctions for supporting Putin in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

– I do not think that this committee, this legislative monster, should do anything, but the matter of the attempt of a hostile takeover of Azoty and Mateusz Morawiecki’s participation in it should be dealt with by the parliamentary investigative committee – says Adam Szłapka, MP from the Civic Coalition. – Attributing to anyone today any Russian influence from the ruling camp is simply ridiculous – comments Jacek Dekora, deputy minister of climate and environment, MP of Sovereign Poland.

Employees of Grupa Azoty are alarming that almost all production has been suspended in recent months. The group’s management explains that this is partly due to the high prices of gas, which a year ago Poland bought mainly from the Russians.

– I have participated many times in discussions that concerned the issue of Russian influence and Russian attempts to purchase the most important branches of Polish industry, for example our Azoty. (…) I would like to know who facilitated these interests at that time – said President Andrzej Duda, commenting on the decision to sign the act on the commission to investigate Russian influence in Poland.

Main photo source: PAP/Piotr Polak

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