Final acquittal of Grzegorz Wojtera, Heat of the Suchy Las commune. Success of SMM Legal’s criminal law team.

A trial of Grzegorz Wojtera, the head of the Suchy Las commune, started in December 2021. The charges concerned lease agreements related to two plots (one developed with the Octopus water park and the other with a parking lot in Biedrusko), as well as the construction of an Elementary School branch in Suchy Las. The defence demonstrated that, when taking these initiatives, Wojtera did not act to the detriment of the commune and took due care of public finances. Mr. Wojtera was charged on three accounts and was acquitted of all of them based on the argumentation of his defence lawyers, Ms. Lidia Ignaczak and Ms. Olga Biernacka of SMM Legal. On 29 March, the Regional Court in Poznań issued a judgement clearing Mr. Wojtera of all charges.

In the reasons to the judgement the Court found that, when pursuing the investments, the official conducted himself as a good and conscientious manager, and the decisions made by him were on all accounts optimal and correct. The head of the commune acted upon economic, social and urban planning considerations, bearing the interests of the residents in mind.

The Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Konin, however, sought to challenge that judgement, requesting a full repeal and a reconsideration of the case before the first instance court.

Today, on 30/01/2024, the Court of Appeal in Poznań upheld the judgement acquitting Grzegorz Wojtera of all charges. The judgement is final, and thus this prolonged legal battle is finally over.

As many as 57 witnesses and one court expert were heard during the trial before the Regional Court, which took place over 10 court sittings. The investigation was initiated in January 2019, and in June 2021 Mr. Wojtera was arraigned. At the investigation stage, the official was heard twice as a suspect, each of the hearings lasting about 8 hours. The trial opened with the first sitting in December 2021 and ended after nearly two years, on 29 March 2023, with a verdict clearing Grzegorz Wojtera of charges on all three counts. Nevertheless, the judgement was not final and the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Konin challenged it. On 30 January 2024, the Court of Appeal, siding with the defence, upheld the judgement of the Regional Court, thus finally ending the procedure.

In oral reasons for the judgement, the Court of Appeal specified that “None of the submitted evidence suggests that the defendant perpetrated a crime. To the contrary – all the evidence in the case points out to his innocence. In consequence, the Court of Appeal fully concurs with the reasoning of the first instance court.” Elaborating on the reasons for the judgement the Court specified that “the activities of a commune and the authorities that represent it are not aimed at generating pecuniary profits. The objective of elected officials is to satisfy the needs of the local community; the Court is convinced that the investments were implemented correctly.”

The task of the defence in the trial was, first of all, to undermine the opinions issued by a court expert on accounting and finance, obtained by the law enforcement authorities when the investigation was still underway. During the trial, we demonstrated that the opinions were prepared unreliably, or even in flagrant breach of professional standards. The defence argued that the head of the commune was guided by the interest of the residents and the funds from the budget were disbursed in a purposeful and economical manner. “We are proud to say that both courts adjudicating on the matter agreed with the arguments of the defence”, says Ms. Olga Biernacka, advocate with SMM Legal.

Social costs of such trials are huge nationwide. We must not lose sight of the fact that the toll is enormous. We hope that Mr. Wojtera’s final vindication will embolden other local government officials to make courageous and appropriate decisions like those taken by him. “We have shown that Grzegorz Wojtera’s actions were motivated by his willingness to serve his constituents, with the approval of the commune council and in compliance with applicable procedures,” comments Mr. Przemysław Maciak, Managing Partner at SMM Legal. “All the three investments scrutinized during the trial have visibly contributed to the development of the commune and addressed actual challenges faced by the local authorities as a result of the inflow of a large number of new residents. We have clearly shown that the head of the commune managed the funds correctly, without increasing the debt ratio of the commune, despite pursuing a number of investments,” adds Mr. Maciak.

The SMM Legal defence team consisted of four attorneys from our Firm. In the courtroom, Mr. Wojtera was defended by Ms. Lidia Ignaczak and Ms. Olga Biernacka, while SMM Legal Partners – Mr. Krzysztof Urbańczak (Head of the Criminal Law Department) and Mr. Przemysław Maciak (Managing Partner) – provided support to the defence team in the development of the trial strategy and tactics.

To read more about the charges brought by the Prosecution and the initial stages of the case, click here.

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