Controversial think-tank #ODF probed by Polish government

| November 30, 2018

Polish security services have launched an investigation into the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF) following serious allegations about its funding, writes James Hipwell.

The Polish government has launched an investigation into the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF), a controversial think tank with an office in Brussels, after finding evidence the organization may have received funding from “offshore tax havens” and “criminal origins”.

On its website, the ODF calls itself a human rights organization, but has been previously accused of operating an “image washing” service for criminals, thanks to its championing of infamous fraudsters Mukhtar Ablyazov and Veaceaslav Platon.

Now Poland’s Internal Security Agency has opened an investigation into who is funding the organization, claiming the information it provides about its donors “does not correspond with reality”.

In August, the ODF’s president, the Ukrainian activist Lyudmyla Kozlovska, was deported from the EU at the request of the Polish authorities.

She has claimed this was a politically motivated revenge for a social media post by her Polish husband, Bartos Kramek, in which he called for the overthrow of the Polish government.

However, the Polish authorities have insisted their decision was based on “serious” concerns about ODF’s funding.

Last Friday (23 November) Stanisław Żaryn, a spokesman for Poland’s security services chief, revealed the National Revenue Administration (NRA) had carried out an inspection into the ODF and discovered worrying irregularities.

He said: “According to the Foundation’s documents, most of the funds channeled to it came from people who were members of the Foundation’s authorities or from individuals and businesses linked to them.”

However, they found that there were also funds from “other sources”.

In particular, the Polish authorities focused on a mysterious company owned by Kramek called the Silk Road Biuro Analiz i Informacji, which had paid money into the ODF, while also receiving funds from companies based in the UK.

These UK firms, were in turn owned by entities registered in notorious offshore tax havens including Seychelles, Belize and Panama.

Investigations by the Polish media have identified the UK companies as Stoppard Consulting LLP and Kariastra Project LP – both incorporated in Scotland.

They had paid Kramek’s company more than US$1.27 million, according to Zaryn.

He added that the NRA believed these funds, which were ultimately paid into the ODF, “may have been criminal in origin”.

Kramek admitted funding for the ODF had originated from off-shore companies. “Owning businesses in tax havens is not prohibited by law,” he said. “To sum up, the money the Foundation received in this way comes from completely legal sources, they flow neither from Vladimir Putin nor from Pablo Escobar.”

The investigation was announced while Kozlovska was hosting a panel at the United Nations in Geneva on human rights abuses.

Just the night before she had faced questions about the ODF’s mysterious funding during an event at the UK’s House of Commons, in which she was a speaker.

Addressing Kozlovska one journalist asked: “One of the things I don’t understand is why Open Dialogue Foundation doesn’t do more to try and put some of the speculation to rest with regards to what services you and your husband’s company Silk Road provided to Stoppard Consulting…and what work you provided to the Kariastra Project.”

Given that Silk Road is a substantial donor to the Open Dialogue project, you refuse to publish details on how Silk Road is funded and it’s led to negative speculation surrounding the exact nature of that relationship.”

In her response, Kozlovska said: “With regards to Silk Road, our family company, this is a private company and actually we had a number of different kinds of report in front of Polish authorities, and different kinds of examination, and all the information was provided.” She then directed the journalist to ODF’s website for more information.

Last month the ODF was accused by Romanian MEP Andi Cristea of operating as a lobbying firm for some of the criminals it has defended, including Moldovan fraudster Veaceaslav Platon and Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is accused of stealing more than US$5 billion from BTA bank in Kazakhstan, which he chaired, siphoning the funds into a network of offshore entities.

Cristea told EU Reporter: “In relation to funding, the Open Dialog Foundation publishes annual reports on its sources of funding, according to the regulations in force. If these reports are not in line with reality, there will be legal consequences for the Foundation as well as consequences for its image and credibility.”

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, Open Dialog Foundation, Poland