November 14, 2018 / 3:00 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Polish anti-corruption agents search offices of financial regulator

(Adds search of KNF offices, KNF statement)

WARSAW, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Anti-corruption investigators said they have searched the offices of Poland’s financial regulation authority (KNF) on Wednesday, a day after its boss quit following newspaper reports he had sought a large bribe from the bank.

The head of the watchdog, the KNF in Polish, Marek Chrzanowski has denied any allegations of wrongdoing but the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which nominated him to the post, said on Tuesday that it would launch a wide-ranging investigation.

“Immediately after the prosecutors’ request agents entered KNF headquarters in Warsaw and are gathering evidence,” the CBA anti-corruption agency said in an emailed response to Reuters questions. “Actions are ongoing.”

The owner of Getin Noble Bank, Leszek Czarnecki, accuses Chrzanowski of seeking a multi-million-dollar payment in return for support for the loss-making bank, which is burdened by a significant number of bad loans, some of them foreign-currency denominated.

In a deposition filed with prosecutors and reviewed by Reuters, Czarnecki’s lawyer said that Chrzanowski had asked Getin Noble Bank to hire a specific lawyer and pay him a salary equal to one percent of the bank’s capitalisation, around $10.5 million.

Following the allegations, first reported by Gazeta Wyborcza daily and the Financial Times, shares of the bank fell by more than a quarter on Wednesday, taking losses so far this year to around 70 percent.

Getin Noble said in a statement that the bank’s position was “stable”, and that the shares were falling due to external factors.

Chrzanowski has not replied to requests for comment from Reuters. The PAP news agency quoted him as saying that he had stepped down out of “a sense of responsibility for the functioning of regulatory supervision over the financial sector”.

The lawyer named in the document, Grzegorz Kowalczyk, told Reuters the newspaper reports were the first he had heard of the allegations. He said he had never consented to anyone seeking a job for him at Getin, had never talked to Czarnecki and knew Chrzanowski only in a private capacity.

The KNF said Poland’s banking system is stable, credible, and liquid.

“The KNF is monitoring risk in the banking system as a whole and in particular institutions and takes necessary steps if needed,” it said in a statement.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski and Pawel Sobczak; editing by Jon Boyle and Louise Heavens

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