Date: June 27 2012
A Polish businessman who met Queen Elizabeth, mingled with the polo-playing elite and enjoyed a life in British high society has been jailed for three and a half years for corruption.
A court in the town of Pabianice also imposed an £84,000 ($130,670) fine after finding Marek Dochnal guilty of bribery over the privatisation of state-owned companies worth millions of pounds.
The 51-year-old businessman, along with an assistant also convicted of corruption, gave thousands of pounds in bribes and a Mercedes Benz in 2004 to Andrzej Peczak, the court was told. Mr Peczak, a left-wing politician, was then head of a parliamentary commission that oversaw state-controlled companies.
The bribes totalled about £150,000, and included, according to the prosecution, the cost of a wedding dress for Mr Peczak's daughter and a family trip to Paris.
Dochnal's conviction marks a remarkable fall from grace for a man who once moved in the most illustrious circles of British society.
His lavish way of life included a nine-bedroom mansion in Wentworth, Surrey, and a polo estate in Argentina, as he sought to establish contacts and influence across the world.
Dochnal's love of polo prompted him to sponsor the Royal Windsor Tournament in 2003, one of the leading events on the international circuit. As sponsor he met the Queen, accompanying her during the prize giving at the Guards Polo Club. He also formed his own team, named after his company, Larchmont Capital, which brought in some of the game's most illustrious players and appeared in venues such as St Tropez.
"He was an enthusiastic polo supporter and sponsor for about two years. He loved the game," said Diana Butler, a spokesman for the Guards Polo Club. "He was a playing member of the club for a couple of years."
Dochnal's brief period in high society came to a painful end in November 2004 when he was arrested at Krakow airport on bribery charges.
Despite spending years in and out of remand as his case struggled to make it to court, the businessman has always maintained his innocence.
"I co-operated with Peczak because I thought it would lead to business," Dochnal told the court. "He offered information, contacts with investors who were important for the country. I was convinced of the legality of the actions."
Lawyers for Dochnal said they would appeal against the sentence.
To add to his woes, Dochnal has also had to contend with long-standing, and vehemently denied, accusations that he once co-operated with Poland's communist-era secret police.
The allegations emerged after his old passport was found in an archive of secret police agents.
The Daily Telegraph, London
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