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WARSAW, Poland -- Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council, strongly defended his actions as Poland's former prime minister during questioning Monday into a pyramid scheme that cheated thousands of Poles out of their savings.

In an emotional moment during the seven-hour hearing, which was televised live across Poland, Tusk told the ruling conservative party that it was using his questioning by a parliamentary committee for political purposes.

"You need this commission, you need this spectacle, to keep repeating ... your insinuations, also on the subject of my family," Tusk said.

Still, Tusk said during the questioning that he did not feel particularly threatened or the object of a witch hunt. He said he was confident in his actions as prime minister from 2007 to 2014.

Tusk said the hearing showed the weakness of the commission, which he said was trying to put blame on him.

Before the hearing, Tusk told reporters he rearranged his EU calendar and showed up because he treats the commission's work seriously.

Tusk was sworn in by the special multi-party commission that has already questioned dozens of state officials in its efforts to pinpoint responsibility for the scam. Addressing him as "prime minister," the commission sought to determine the scope of Tusk's authority over state security and other offices and when he was made aware of the pyramid scheme perpetrated by the Amber Gold financial institution.

Prosecutors say some 19,000 investors lost over $225 million in what turned out to be one of the biggest financial scandals in Poland. Amber Gold's two founders are both under arrest in prison and are on trial facing up to 15-year sentences.

The scam, which was revealed in 2012, has raised questions about the effectiveness of Poland's government during Tusk's term in office. Critics say Polish authorities failed to react in time to warning signals about Amber Gold.

Rejecting these allegations, Tusk said a warning against Amber Gold was issued by the Polish Financial Supervision Commission, or KNF, and that it was not the prime minister's job to issue such a warning.

"While I have sympathy for those who invested in Amber Gold, because they are the victims of these dealings, I want to say that a warning by the KNF that it was linked to very high risk was publicly available," Tusk said.

One of the themes of the investigation and of Monday's questioning was the fact that Tusk's son Michal was employed by an airline owned by Amber Gold. Tusk denied allegations that his son's job could have served as a protective umbrella for the pyramid scheme.

He suggested that some anti-crime procedures had failed in the Amber Gold case, as well as fiscal controls and the office for protecting consumers.

"In the Amber Gold case, had all the links described in the procedure worked as they should have, we would have probably managed to avoid the lion's share of the losses that people sustained," Tusk said.

A Section on 11/06/2018

Print Headline: Poland's ex-leader denies allegations

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