Wajda pic gives back $1 million

Akson Studio unwittingly took pyramid scheme money

The Polish producers of veteran director Andrzej Wajda’s biopic on Solidarity leader Lech Walesa have handed back nearly $1 million of money invested in the film by a company that was involved in a pyramid scheme.

Akson Studio voluntary returned 3 million zlotys ($960,000) after police uncovered evidence that the investor, Gdansk-based Amber Gold, was operating a sophisticated fraud. Amber Gold is in bankruptcy.

“No court order regarding the money has been issued,” says Akson spokeswoman Katarzyna Sikorska-Jedral. “However, Akson Studio on its own initiative decided to reimburse the entire amount to Amber Gold’s bankruptcy estate, for the sake of Amber Gold’s wronged clients.”

Akson, which took the money in good faith and is not accused of any wrongdoing, is plugging the gap from its own resources. It’s now in talks with potential investors, and hopes to finalize new financing by the end of the year, she adds.

The $6 million film “Walesa,” from the 86-year-old Wajda, is in post-production, and should be ready for its international premiere, possibly in Cannes, next year.

Akson say the decision to return the money won’t delay completion of the film, which stars Robert Wieckiewicz.

Amber Gold’s problems came to light in August when the company went bankrupt just four months after launching low-cost airline OLT Express, as part of an ambitious diversification program.

As media and political attention focused on the company, it soon emerged that its core gold investment business was a pyramid scheme that had taken advantage of loose banking regulations.

Investors in Amber Gold, lured by a big publicity campaign promising annual returns of up to 16.5%, now face losses that could total $40 million.

The affair threatens not only to affect Wajda’s movie but could bring to an end the career of dozens of officials who are deemed to have failed in their duty to regulate Amber Gold.

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