Polish EUR 200m Ponzi scheme trial opens
(WARSAW) - A Polish couple went on trial Monday for allegedly conning 19,000 clients out of a total 200 million euros ($225 million) through their investment firm Amber Gold, according to local media.
Prosecutors in the northern city of Gdansk accuse Marcin and Katarzyna P. of having run a classic Ponzi scheme promising clients their cash would be invested in gold or other precious metals but instead using that money to pay out initial interest rates of up to 16 percent per year.
It was only possible to recuperate around a third of the 200 million euros that disappeared between 2009-12.
The couple, whose surname cannot be released for legal reasons, has also been charged with money laundering. They allegedly poured the ill-gotten cash into various accounts and companies including the low-cost airline OLT Express, which quickly went bankrupt.
Day one of the trial began with intrigue including a two-hour delay because of a false bomb alarm and Marcin's refusal to answer all questions, including his own lawyer's.
The governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has accused its liberal predecessors of failing to monitor Amber Gold and look into Marcin's criminal past, which includes a string of fraud convictions.
Local media have also reported that the son of former prime minister Donald Tusk -- now EU president -- had once simultaneously worked for Gdansk airport and OLT Express.
Michal Tusk, who is in his 30s, has denied any wrongdoing.
The PiS accuse investigators, who interviewed close to 20,000 witnesses, of foot-dragging in bringing the case to trial.