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Poland probes financial scam that could see Tusk testify

Associated Press Associated Press 7/09/2016
Members of Poland's special parliamentary commission that is to investigate a 2009-2012 major financial scam are gathered for the first session in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. The 'Amber Gold' pyramid scheme, which deprived some 19,000 people of savings worth some 850 million zlotys (US dollar 219 million). Observers say European Council President Donald Tusk, who was Poland's prime minister then, could be asked to testify. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) © The Associated Press Members of Poland's special parliamentary commission that is to investigate a 2009-2012 major financial scam are gathered for the first session in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016. The 'Amber Gold' pyramid scheme, which deprived some 19,000 people of savings worth some 850 million zlotys (US dollar 219 million). Observers say European Council President Donald Tusk, who was Poland's prime minister then, could be asked to testify. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland — A Polish parliamentary commission on Wednesday opened an investigation into one of the country's biggest financial scams that could see Donald Tusk — the former prime minister and current European Union president — called on to testify.

The scam was operated between 2009 and 2012 by a couple and deprived 19,000 people — many of them elderly — of savings worth some 850 million zlotys ($219 million).

The committee plans to question state authorities of the time. Observers say that could include Tusk, who led the government at the time. The parliamentary commission is led by a member of the ruling conservative Law and Justice party, rival to Tusk's party.

Its findings could lead prosecutors to open new investigations into the scam.

Law and Justice, which took power in the fall, blames Tusk and his government for many social ills, such as an inefficient legal system and uneven economic development across the country.

The "Amber Gold" financial scam was a pyramid scheme that exemplifies these ills, the party leaders say. In its electoral campaign the Law and Justice vowed to bring those guilty to account.

The married couple who ran the scheme, identified only as Marcin P. and Katarzyna P., are on trial.

People were lured by promises of 10 percent or more interest on their deposits. They were put off guard by the fact that the nicely-looking "Amber Gold" offices were often located next door to respectable banks, while its ads resembled those of existing financial institutions.

Commission head Malgorzata Wasserman said the investigation's aim is to determine why government, banking, justice and security authorities failed to stop the scheme or effectively warn citizens against it.

Marcin P. had a number of suspended sentences for fraud before he started the "Amber Gold" scam and it remains to be explained why he had not been put in prison then.

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