Organised Crime in Europe

Volume 4 of the series Studies Of Organized Crime pp 467-498

Organised Crime in Poland: Its Development from ‘Real Socialism’ to Present Times

  • Emil PlywaczewskiAffiliated withUniversity of Bialystok

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At the beginning of the 1990s, two types of organised crime – sometimes also improperly called the ‘Polish Mafia’ – emerged in Poland. First, top-down organised crime was created by increasingly corrupt public officials and politicians who acquired control of strategic sectors of the national economy by exploiting their positions and connections. Secondly, bottom-up organised crime was created as the traditional criminal ‘underworld’ became progressively better organised. It is ironic in the sense that we could say that dishonest politicians became more ‘criminalised’ at the same time as the criminal entrepreneurs became more ‘civilised’. In light of this, the two groups have often met halfway. On the one hand, politicians occasionally select a wealthy member of the underworld as a business partner to take over a lucrative enterprise or gain control of an economic sector. On the other hand, criminal entrepreneurs need protection and contacts with politicians and government officials to legalise the proceeds of their crimes. According to some sources, people connected with state security services (e.g. former officers) frequently act as middlemen between the two, as they have good contacts in both groups (Foks, 2002: 9-10; Jurczenko and Kilijanek, 2001).