Poland is probing alleged links between its state refiner and Hezbollah


WARSAW: Poland has launched an investigation into multi-million-dollar cash losses by Polish refiner Orlen’s Swiss unit and allegations that its former CEO had ties to “terrorist organizations,” Warsaw chief prosecutor Malgorzata Adamajtys said on Tuesday.

Polish website Onet had reported on Monday that the former CEO of Orlen Trading Switzerland, referred to only as Samer A. due to local privacy laws, was suspected by Orlen’s internal security unit of having had contacts with Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group.

Samer A., the ex-CEO of Orlen’s Swiss subsidiary OTS, denied in an interview with Polish private radio RMF on Tuesday that he had any connections with Hezbollah.

“I have been to Poland many times, I am a Polish citizen, I have a Polish passport. I am treated by the current authorities as a second-class citizen,” he said, adding that though he was currently abroad, he was not hiding from Polish law enforcement.

Asked at a press conference for details of the investigation, chief prosecutor Adamajtys said: “We are looking into all information, some of which is known to prosecutors from the press, radio and television, including on connections with terrorist organizations.”

Western countries including the US designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. The European Union classifies Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group, but not its political wing.

Adamajtys said OTS was established as a business despite a warning by Orlen’s internal security unit not to do so. It operated, according to Adamajtys, without proper supervision, documentation and verification of contractors. She said this showed that Samer A. should not have been appointed as CEO.

“A person who makes advance payments without completion of the first tranches of certain deliveries is not a good CEO and should not be the CEO of this or any other company,” she said.

Reuters sought to contact Samer A. for comment on Adamajtys’ remarks about OTS operations, but he could not be reached. In his conversation with RMF, he denied that there had been any warning from Orlen’s internal security unit.


Orlen has said OTS was behind the loss of around $400 million linked to contracts to buy Venezuelan oil and oil products.

OTS has said it tried to benefit from a temporary window in US sanctions against Venezuela and paid cash advances to intermediaries it never worked with before. The contracts were canceled, it said, as a closure of the window was nearing, and tankers weren’t loading.

Orlen has said it is currently auditing OTS operations.

Adamajtys said Orlen also faced questions over the alleged manipulation of fuel prices to artificially low levels ahead of last year’s national election and a sale of some assets that investigators suspect were below market level.

In February, Orlen rejected an allegation of below-market asset sales from the state audit office, saying it gained as much as 9 billion zloty ($2.2 billion) in one corporate merger. The company also denied lowering fuel prices artificially.

Samer A. has been charged in a separate probe with VAT fraud between 2008-2013, a regional prosecutor in Bydgoszcz said on Monday. He was detained by police and questioned by a prosecutor in February, and released on bail, the prosecutor added.

Opposition critics said that under the previous, nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government, which lost power in that vote, Orlen had helped finance the party’s policy agenda, including taking control of some media outlets.

On Monday, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he had called the country’s chief prosecutor and secret services coordinator to discuss potential links between the former CEO of Orlen, Daniel Obajtek, and Hezbollah.

Obajtek, a close associate of PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, responded on social media platform X that Tusk was “looking for scandals where there are none.”

Polish media have reported that PiS might put up Obajtek as a candidate in June’s European Parliament election.

Arab News