Usury, extortion of apartments, and fraud on document works. How do we combat this process?
Usurious loans, unfair conditions for the sale of real estate, extortion with a notary check – scandals of this kind have often been raging in many Polish cities for several years and ending in the courts. The perpetrators take advantage of the silliness and gullibility of people – especially the elderly – and lead them to lose their life’s achievements. How do you prevent fraud?
This is just one case of its kind in which after so many years it is difficult to know whether fraud actually occurred. As the experts have pointed out, the only solution is probably to void the notarial contract, that is, to file a civil case against the businessman. However, it would be difficult to prove that a criminal act was committed – Mr. Pewter’s case is a classic ‘word against word’.
However, over the past few years, such cases – where there were crimes of usury, extortion of apartments, deprivation of people of their livelihood – were numerous throughout Poland. Groups of scammers operating on a large scale have been involved in scandals and criminal practices. Many of these cases – under pressure from the media – ended up in the courts. These are stories from Poznań, Gdańsk, Warsaw, and Lublin, among others. People (old and clumsy) were brought there using various methods, eg moving their apartments. Among the offenders – legal advisers, “jobs”, that is, substitute persons who can be assigned places, and sometimes even the notaries themselves. So far, in these cases, other cases of usurious scams and new victims have appeared.
In response to the housing scandals that broke out in successive cities and the increasingly daring activity of fraudsters, the law has been amended over the years and new regulations have been added regarding, among other things, the notary itself. The request to record the meetings with the notary public and to read the works was also repeated several times. This solution was proposed by some social activists, Senator Lydia Staroy, known for her pro-social activism, and recently also by the Department of Justice. However, the House of Representatives rejected the ministry’s draft.
What are the solutions that can be implemented to reduce the amount of fraud and usury? As confirmed by prof. Maciej Gutowski, a specialist in the field of civil law and former dean of the Poznań District Bar Association, legal regulations will not help if there is a lack of education and awareness of both notaries and the community itself.
– I think that emphasis should be placed on more solid training of notaries and lawyers, but also on educating people. We must begin to realize that a notary alone will not protect us from fraud if we do not look after our own interests, read and understand and know what we are signing. Cheating preys on gullibility. If people were more legally aware, it would be much more difficult to deceive them. There are many things that we should be able to take care of, and no one will do them for us – sell real estate, call the office, make contracts, sell a car, take care of your pension, your pension, right? – A.D. points out. Gutovsky.
Our interlocutor points out that according to the jurisprudence of the courts, including the Supreme Court, the notary public is obliged to try to control the suspicious circumstances of the conclusion of contracts and the risk of fraud. However, he is not always able to do this. His role is also to accurately explain the uncertainties and legal consequences of a particular action. – You can read a legal text that no one understands in a monotonous voice, but you can also explain a legal text in a slightly simpler language. What I appreciate most are the notaries who, while reading, can explain what the contract is. We cannot record all the circumstances of a transaction. The education process is the most important, but it will not completely eliminate the problems, – says the lawyer.
Is the obligation to record meetings with a notary public a good idea? It is possible that such a mechanism would deter ill-intentioned people, however – according to prof. Gutowski – This is not a cure-all and will not help when we lack legal wisdom and awareness.
Recording notarization activities is a certain idea, which may show the intentions of the parties and the notary public in some cases, but not always. I will not overestimate the importance of this, because there will always be scammers and dishonest individuals. There is no profession in which there is no dishonest person. Therefore, I would personally bet on better education and training, strict standards of access to the profession and a decent system of disciplinary responsibility – our interlocutor emphasizes.
We also asked the National Council of Notaries for their opinion on ways to combat usury. In response, we received a long statement. The NCR asserts at the outset that crimes and scandals involving notaries themselves are rare (although questions relate to the general phenomenon).
“Notaries in Poland annually prepare about 3 million notaries and perform approximately 16 million other notarial activities. Only a fraction of these activities are evaluated by the court. Each notarial deed must be read by a notary, and then accepted by the parties to Contract and signature: All research conducted over recent years shows that the security of legal transactions in Poland is at the highest level among European countries thanks to an efficient notary.
NCR adds that the notary public has been conducting educational activities for years, for notaries and legal advisors, as well as for private persons who may be parties to civil transactions. “(…) We encourage you to tell the notary the truth about the activities being carried out (and this is different), not to hide important information and ask about everything that is incomprehensible. This is the key to security when making transactions. No, the best notary will not help , and it will not help to register, if the victims of usurers declared lies when concluding contracts.
The council affirms that the idea of recording sessions at the notary public is not good, as it shocks, among other things, the protection of personal data and privacy. According to KRN, “Polish society is against it, because it would lead to total censorship”.
“Documentary secrecy – which is the guarantee of protection for people who trust the public functions of the notary, entrusting him with the knowledge of facts that they generally do not want to share with other people – in such a case it would be a mere fantasy – indicates the council, adding that such a solution is mainly used In non-democratic countries, this should not be the case.
a. Gutowski stresses that making people aware of legal procedures is crucial. Recording everything won’t solve all your problems. There will be less dishonesty when we deal with conscientious people, right? Also, the role of the media is to educate and disseminate dramatic stories, because they make people aware. It teaches you to be careful and careful when making deals. It’s not like we can trust everyone around us.