Below you will find an overview of the changes – crucial from the managers’ point of view – which may be described as a radicalisation of the risk of criminal liability for white collar crimes. The amended provisions apply to events that occurred after the entry into force of the amendment, i.e. 1 October 2023. Therefore, it should be considered whether there is a way to prepare for these changes in advance and mitigate the risk of personal liability.


I. Drastically increased penalties for white collar crimes

The legislature toughened penalties for the most serious crimes against property and business transactions. Aggravated types of certain crimes have been introduced, in case of which the punishability is determined based on the value of the property that the crime relates to:

In this way, the legislature has introduced the economic indictable crime into the legal regime. So far, the penalty for most of the crimes affected by the amendment was a maximum of between 1 and 10 years of imprisonment.

An indictable crime is a prohibited act punishable by imprisonment for at least 3 years or by a more severe penalty.

The changes regard, but are not limited to, the following crimes:


Is it possible to prepare for these changes?

Conducting criminal proceedings does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that a crime has been committed. However, the mere conduct of such proceedings, the commitment of an organisation’s time and resources, and the accompanying fear for the personal safety of managers that criminal proceedings entail is a significant inconvenience.

In addition, white collar crimes usually involve complex facts and economic events. In these types of cases, there is a high risk that the circumstances of the case will be misunderstood by law enforcement authorities, who are not involved in economic transactions on a daily basis. Such risk increases if there is insignificant documentary evidence in the case. The findings are then based on witness testimonies which may differ significantly from actual events (inter alia, due to the passage of time).

Moreover, the change in the risk of criminal liability for white collar crimes, by drastically increasing the possible imprisonment sentences, will not be without an impact on the way law enforcement authorities proceed. By providing for such severe penalties, the legislature has assigned a very significant social harm (assessed theoretically) to these crimes. So far, such penalties were generally reserved only for crimes against life or health and against the system. This, clearly, will translate into law enforcement activity in the economic area and the intensity of the procedural measures taken.


How to reduce the severity of criminal proceedings and the risk of law enforcement authorities misjudging business events?

Prepare your organisation for criminal proceedings by implementing criminal compliance tools in your organisation:

strzałka  Procedure in case of inspection or search:
strzałka  Anti-corruption policy:
strzałka  KYC and contractor selection procedure:
strzałka  Defence file (documenting the economic rationale behind business decisions – business judgement rule)


II. Each shareholder will have the right to file for prosecution against mismanagement without harm

From 1 October 2023, each shareholder who holds at least 1 share of the company will have the right to file a motion for prosecution for the crime of mismanagement without harm (Article 2961a of the Criminal Code).

This crime involves failure to perform a duty or abuse of powers by members of the company’s management board that led to a direct danger of significant (exceeding PLN 200,000) property damage. The conduct of the perpetrators therefore did not ultimately lead to harm to the company, but the harm was almost certain.

This crime is prosecuted upon a motion, so for criminal proceedings to be conducted, a declaration of the relevant entity’s willingness to prosecute the offender is required. In the case of Article 2961a of the Criminal Code, this has so far been exclusively the harmed party, i.e. the company itself.

A motion for prosecution should be distinguished from a report of a suspected crime. The report may be filed by any person, e.g. by a minority shareholder or a person unrelated to the company. In the case of crimes prosecuted upon a motion, such as, e.g., the crime against Article 296(1a) of the Criminal Code, a report of a suspected crime triggers an action by the prosecutor’s office to collect a statement from the harmed person as to whether he or she is willing to prosecute the offenders. The absence of a motion for prosecution is a ground for the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings or their discontinuation.

Given the principles of company representation, in practice, this meant that a motion for prosecution depended on the decision of the persons as to whose conduct such criminal proceedings would be brought and, for obvious reasons, such motion (despite a report of a suspected crime being filed by, for example, a minority shareholder) was not submitted. Only in the case of changes in the shareholding structure and changes in the management composition, it was possible to initiate proceedings against former members of the management board.



III. New type of crime – evasion of a compensatory measure

As of 1 October 2023, failure to implement a compensatory measure in the form of redress of damage, compensation of harm or payment of punitive damages ordered by the court in criminal proceedings will constitute a crime prosecuted upon a motion of the harmed party, punishable by imprisonment of between 3 months and 5 years.

Accordingly, in the case of, for example, a person convicted of a crime whom the court ordered to redress the damage in addition to the penalty, groundless evasion of fulfilling this obligation will constitute a separate crime for which this person may also be convicted.


IV. New catalogue of penalties

Along with toughening penalties for some crimes, as mentioned in section I above, the legislature also amended the catalogue of penalties that can be imposed on convicted persons. Previously, the penalty of imprisonment could be imposed for between 1 month and 15 years, and beyond that range – for 25 years 5. Regardless of this, life imprisonment could be imposed for the most serious crimes. In practice, this meant that the court could impose a maximum sentence of e.g. 15 years’ imprisonment for crimes punishable by, for example, 3 or more years of imprisonment. However, it could not impose a sentence of, for example, 17 or 23 years’ imprisonment.

This will change significantly in the case of crimes committed after 1 October 2023.

Needless to say, the penalty is limited by the risk provided for the crime.

1 Act of 7 July 2022 to amend the Criminal Code and certain other acts (Journal of Laws of 2022 item 2600).
3 An indictable crime is a prohibited act punishable by imprisonment for at least 3 years or by a more severe penalty
4 The crime of mismanagement causing significant property harm to the company (exceeding PLN 200,000) is punishable under Article 296 § 1 of the Criminal Code and does not require a motion for prosecution.
5 Needless to say, the penalty is limited by the risk provided for the crime.
6 See the position of the Commissioner for Human Rights –

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If you have any questions, feel free to contact our expert directly.

Arkadiusz Górski – Senior Associate, Attorney-at-law White Collar Crime