According to the information of the Renaissance public movement of Belarus, during the period 2012-2016, more than 1 200 000 illegal payments have been made for issuing a Schengen visa. The average amount of illegal payment is 220 EUR on top of the official visa fee. As the result, interests of nearly 800 000 Belarusian citizens have been damaged.
Schengen visas are the symbol of freedom, trust and unity of the EU member states. However, a group of individuals whose official goal is to advocate the European values, has organized the illegal business on selling this European symbol. Thus, the Renaissance movement believes that the illegal visa business is a fraud, and its organizers are fraudsters.
There’s no doubt that visa fraud took place in Belarus. The representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland made statements about this crime in Belarusian and Polish press in 2012, 2013 and 2015. The summary of these statements is the following: an organized criminal group consisting of citizens of Belarus had taken control over the procedure of issuing Schengen visas and was earning million euros on it each year.
It’s important to note that article 240 of the Criminal code and article 304 of the Criminal Procedure code of Poland oblige the representatives of the MFA of Poland provide any known information about crimes to the Police or Prosecutor’s Office. It seems strange that the representatives of the MFA of Poland have not done that. They actually violated the laws of Poland by this inaction.
In 2012, the Department of International Cooperation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus sent a letter to the Embassy of Poland in Minsk, when it was considering the statements of the representatives of the Embassy about hacker attacks on their website. This letter contained a request to provide technical information related to the incident and also a list of recommendations on protection of the website. However, the Embassy did not respond to this letter. This way, the Polish side refused to cooperate with the Belarusian law enforcement authorities.
The above information became known to the Renaissance movement, as our movement had submitted complaints related to the visa fraud to the authorities of Belarus. Our goal was to protect the rights of the Renaissance supporters, and also of all the Belarusian citizens. The Belarusian authorities officially stated that they are not competent in the issue, as they do not have rights to intervene into work of foreign diplomatic missions. One of the letters of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus read that “the consulates of Poland independently choose their visa policy in the given country“.
The results of the investigation held by the Renaissance movement allow to conclude that the visa fraud has been organized by the representatives of the political elite of Poland. More detailed information on the subject and copies of the documents are presented at www.visafraud.eu.
The Renaissance movement is officially represented by Fundacja RENESANS. BY, an organization which is registered in the capital of Poland. This organization sent multiple complaints related to the visa fraud to the authorities of Poland. In 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, appeals were submitted to the General Prosecutor’s Office of Poland, District Prosecutor’s Office of Warsaw, Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commissions of the Polish Parliament, Main Commandant of Border Protection, and other institutions. The Polish authorities officially refused to hold investigation of the visa fraud. Moreover, no measures were taken to stop the illegal consular activities in Belarus. The Polish court upheld this decision of the authorities. This way, the legal system of Poland displayed its weakness and inability to withstand an organized criminal group which involves the corrupt representatives of the political elite of Poland.
In September 2015, the Renaissance movement sent an appeal about the visa fraud to the European Commission and OLAF. This activity of the Renaissance led to the rapid reduction of the illegal visa business starting from March 2016. Today we can say that this business has stopped. However, our movement raises the question of holding investigation and identifying the individuals who had organized the illegal business on Schengen visas.
The European Commission and OLAF refused to hold investigation. The European Commission acknowledged the necessity of taking measures by the punitive bodies in connection with the visa fraud, however, it delegated this responsibility to the Belarusian authorities. It’s important to note that Belarus is not a member of the EU, and does not have authority to supervise execution of the EU Visa Code (EU law 810/2009). It’s the European Commission who is responsible for enforcement of the Visa Code. In our opinion, the European Commission must hold the investigation of this crime. In one of the letters sent to Fundacja RENESANS. BY, the European Commission stated that it had been monitoring the procedure of issuing Schengen visas in Belarus since 2012. In this connection, the following question arises: why didn’t the European Commission take any measures to prevent the illegal consular activities? Probably, the European Commission is not an enough competent body, or the representatives of the European Commission responsible for monitoring were corrupt.
The European Commission states that the illegal visa intermediaries who were collecting the illegal payments, were acting independent of the Embassy of Poland in Minsk. The Renaissance movement has prepared a report about the visa fraud. We hope to present this report on the hearings in the European Parliament. This report contains detailed information about the activities of the illegal visa intermediaries. We aim to prove that the net of the illegal intermediaries which consisted of more than 70 firms, had been created by the efforts of the Polish councils. The access of Belarusian citizens to the Polish consulates was limited by deliberate actions of the Polish side. Belarusian citizens were forced to turn to the illegal intermediaries to buy a date for visiting Polish consulate. According to the Renaissance information, the illegal intermediaries published advertisements offering available dates for visiting consulates, collected the illegal payments, and later transferred 50% to 70% of earnings to the Polish side.
The Polish consulates in Belarus could take rapid and effective measures to improve the situation. In two official letters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, detailed measures and terms for improvement of the situation in Belarus were provided. However, these measures have never been taken. The Polish side kept the situation intact for 4 years.
It’s important to mention, that in 2011, the Police of France, Germany, Spain and Denmark revealed multiple violations in the activities of the Polish consulate in Lutsk, Ukraine. This way, the European authorities are already familiar with this kind of illegal activities. After the scandal, in late 2011, the Head of the Polish consulate in Lutsk was moved to Minsk where he took the position of the Head of the Consular Department of the Embassy of Poland in Belarus. In the beginning of 2012, visa business of an enormous scale was organized in Belarus.
The European Commission did not take measures to investigate the illegal consular activities back in 2011. As the result, presumably the same individuals organized a new visa fraud which lasted 4 years. In connection with these circumstances, the Renaissance points to the responsibility of the European Commission for the visa crime committed in Belarus. Our side is under impression that currently the European Commission is taking unprecedented measures to hide this crime.
It’s important to note that the authorities of Poland organized unprecedented pressure on the activists of the Renaissance and on the head of Fundacja RENESANS. BY. Articles which discredited the movement and the reputation of its leader by using false information were published in three major Polish newspapers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland sent a letter to the Polish Prosecutor’s Office stating that the Renaissance leader blackmailed the Embassy of Poland in Minsk by requesting to service the Renaissance activists without turn. Otherwise, he allegedly threatened to block the website of the Embassy. This statement of the MFA of Poland is false. To protect its reputation, the Renaissance filed suits in Polish courts. But our side hasn’t managed to win a single lawsuit. This fact also proves the imperfection of the Polish justice system. Besides that, the ability to manipulate the leading media displays the unlimited possibilities of the high ranking visa fraudsters.
During the investigation, our side came across the sources which claim that the Polish councils had also organized illegal visa business in some regions of Russian Federation, and several African countries. Fundacja RENESANS. BY shared this information with the European Commission, but the European Commission was not interested in it at all. Meanwhile, the illegal consular activities in Africa represents a heightened threat to the security of the EU member states. It should be concluded, that the corrupt Polish councils act on a grand scale on at least 3 continents and in many countries. These activities require thorough investigation.
Another question which is very important to our side is the question of support of the Belarusian opposition movements by the European Union. The European Union allocates significant amount of funds to support the civil society of Belarus each year. Most part of these funds are sent to the intermediary - the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland. In our opinion, the MFA of Poland uses these funds in a very questionable way. The financial aid of the EU does not reach Belarus, but is invested to the Polish economy instead. It’s important to note that the official reports of the MFA of Poland about the projects implemented to support the civil society of Belarus contain false information. As the result, another fraud is being committed under the pretext of supporting the civil society of Belarus.
Fundacja RENESANS. BY