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Polish Central Banker Wins Libel Appeal, Keeps MPC Seat

Polish central banker Jan Winiecki was acquitted of libel charges by an appeals court, a verdict that will allow him to keep his seat on the rate-setting Monetary Policy Council.

The charges against Winiecki were brought by former Governor Slawomir Skrzypek, who died in a 2010 plane crash together with then-Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 94 others. Under Polish law, libel claims can be brought in criminal courts. Skrzypek’s widow pursued the case after a lower court ruled in 2009 that Winiecki had libeled Skrzypek in a newspaper article saying the governor wasn’t qualified to run the Warsaw-based Narodowy Bank Polski.

“A person aspiring to such an important post as central-bank governor has to take into account that he could become a target of harsh and subjective criticism,” Judge Leszek Matuszewski told the court in Poznan today, adding that the case is now dismissed. “Even if it’s objectively unfair, it cannot be regarded as libelous.”

A guilty verdict would have cost Winiecki his place on the council, as Polish law requires MPC members who’ve been convicted in criminal cases and exhausted all appeals to be removed from office. Winiecki joined the body in 2010 as one of three rate setters approved by the Senate.

The zloty pared its decline after the ruling, trading at 0.1 percent weaker at 4.1814 per euro at 10:28 a.m. in Warsaw.

‘Marginally Positive’

It’s “marginally positive news for the zloty,” Mateusz Szczurek, chief economist for central and eastern Europe at ING Groep NV in Warsaw, said in an e-mailed note. “The ruling is unlikely to push the pricing of the NBP rates path higher from the current level.”

Monetary-policy makers have trimmed borrowing costs by 1 percentage point since November as the economy has slowed amid the debt crisis in the euro area, which buys more than half of Polish exports. After the latest rate cut on Feb. 6, Governor Marek Belka told a news conference that the bank is maintaining its informal easing bias, meaning another cut or a decision to keep rates unchanged are “equally probable.”

Room for more reductions is “limited,” Winiecki said on Jan. 14 after supporting rate cuts in November and December, voting records show. The central bank has yet to publish the tallies from the last two meetings.

Derivatives traders have pared their expectations for further interest-rate cuts following the central bank’s Feb. 6 meeting. Twelve-month forward rate agreements are trading 47 basis points below the Warsaw Interbank Offered Rate, near the smallest gap in eight months, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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