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Poland's jewel smuggling case left a trail to officials

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It had all the ingredients of a good crime story: a Polish jeweler on his way to business appointments in West Germany or to the Amsterdam diamond mart when East Berlin frontier police intercepted his car.

What they found in the trunk of his car were diamonds and other precious stones. But it is more than just a crime story. The trail led right to the backdoor of Polish officialdom.

The press, which got onto the story in a way unthinkable a few months ago when they were inhibited by censorship, reported police hints that many people "formerly and at present" in high positions were implicated.

When Polish reporters, again in a style quite unthinkable before last August, pressed for names they were told: "They are names we see on TV and hear on radio , mainly people journalists write about."

"Names usually found on inside pages, or on the front pages?" the journalists persisted.

"Most are the kind of people who make front-page news," the police spokesman was reported as saying.

While it is true many Polish officials have clean hands, the diamond case is yet another illustration of the profound problems behind the present crisis in Poland: the ease with which many Poles in official or quasi-official posts were able to enrich themselves at the same time the country's economy was being so sadly mismanaged. Ordinary folk, for instance, must queue hours for meat, sometimes in vain, and wait 10 years to get an apartment.

Krakow police tumbled on to Roman Urbianak, a certified gem expert and manager of Jubiler in Wroclaw, after picking up several suspected diamond runners. In Urbianak's Wroclaw apartment they found two kilograms of gold, nearly 200 diamonds valued at $700,000, and a large quantity of synthetic stone used in expensive costume jewelry.


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