by Mariusz Sepioło / FRONTSTORY.PL
Millions of euros flow from companies tied to the most famous Polish alt-med influencer Jerzy Zięba into a tax haven.
Business circle centered on him makes a fortune selling dietary supplements.
Zięba, followed by hundreds of thousands fans on social media, faces charges in Poland for selling medicinal products without proper permits.
The original, Polish version of this article can be found on FRONTSTORY.PL
A man steps out of a single-storied house on the outskirts of Katowice, Southern Poland. He sighs loudly. “Jerzy Zięba? He hasn’t lived here for ten years. The police come here from time to time and ask about him. I keep explaining that it’s not his current address. He moved to Katowice, as far as I know”.
Zięba is a somewhat controversial figure. He’s a man who directly influences the health of thousands of Poles. He likes to depict himself as a “freelance journalist and publicist”, as well as a certified hypnotherapist and naturopath. He promotes his own ideas for “healthcare”. The actual doctors disapprove of his theories, and Polish sanitary inspectors warn that Zięba spreads “content threatening to health and life”. Two and a half years ago he was accused of buying and selling medicinal products without proper permits. His trial started in March and is ongoing.
How Jerzy Zięba’s theories relate to scientific knowledge and facts? Analysts from fact-checking organization Demagog verified some of his statements.
Zięba’s opinions and public statements go against recommendations proposed by many renowned medical organizations, like Polish Psychiatric Association (PTP), American Psychiatric Association (APA), and National Health Service (NHS). They are also contrary to guidelines created by the World Health Organization (WHO), and other bodies that promote and foster medical knowledge, like Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School, to name but a few.
One of the most controversial arguments made by Zięba concerns the alleged ineffectiveness of chemotherapy in cancer treatment. Contrary to his opinions, cancers can be cured with this method of treatment, which was verified by organizations like National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK, National Health Service, American Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and Polish Society of Clinical Oncology.
Zięba also claims that the human body produces vitamin C. Analysts from Demagog used available medical studies (1, 2) to show that this argument is completely false. Contrary to what Zięba suggests, a normal vitamin C level is vital for the human body, but nowadays we can get the recommended daily amount in a regular diet. That is why there’s no need to take additional supplements.
In January 2023, Jerzy Zięba raised the subject of sepsis, a very serious and life-threatening condition. In his opinion: “Any average doctor will diagnose sepsis instantly, because to him, it doesn’t matter what the cause is.” Yet, experts point out that sepsis/blood poisoning is an “extreme reaction of the human body to infection,” and requires an immediate response, but its diagnosis is not necessarily simple and straightforward, because doctors need to recognize the cause first, in order to cure a life-threatening condition. And it is not caused by “free radicals”, as Jerzy Zięba claims.
Fact-checkers from Demagog asked professor Magda Wiśniewska, MD, Ph. D., a specialist in internal medicine and nephrology, and a member of Supreme Medical Chamber Expert Council, who works at Nephrology, Transplantology and Internal Diseases Clinic at Pomeranian Medical University in Szczecin, for a comment. She replied that Zięba’s arguments are “complete rubbish, and repeating them is highly dangerous for public opinion.”
A review conducted by the World Health Organization in 2022 shows that incorrect interpretations of health information, which increase during outbreaks and disasters, often negatively impact people’s mental health and increase vaccine hesitancy, and can delay the provision of health care. The authors conclude that the effects of infodemics and health misinformation online can be countered by “developing legal policies, creating and promoting awareness campaigns, improving health-related content in mass media and increasing people’s digital and health literacy”.
We were the first to investigate the network of companies with close ties to Zięba. Profits worth millions of euros, as it turns out, flow to Czech Republic, United Kingdom and a tax haven, Liechtenstein. Zięba does not flaunt his foreign-based companies. And he doesn’t have to. Most of those firms are run by his longtime business partners. It is they who give their names to transborder “Zięba” project and put their signatures on legal contracts.
Police seals all supplements
It’s April 2019. Jerzy Zięba starts a live feed for thousands of his Facebook fans. He stands in front of Egida Consulting company headquarters in Rzeszów, Southern Poland, from where Visanto brand supplements,advertised by Zięba, are shipped all around the world. “They are about to shut practically the whole business down,” he reports with a dramatic voice. “Mister prosecutor decided to seal all of our rooms.”
Zięba is in trouble because a criminal complaint was filed against him by the Polish Patient Ombudsman in November 2017. We have received the ombudsman’s stateman by email. It reads as follows: “Patient Ombudsman filed a criminal complaint (…). Jerzy Zięba promoted treatment methods for certain diseases (e.g. natural methods for healing and preventive treatment of chronic diseases and cancers) that are inconsistent with current medical knowledge and can have negative consequences, including a delay or complete lack of a proper treatment. It can’t be ruled out that the conduct of Jerzy Zięba might have put patients in direct danger, resulting in grevious bodily harm or loss of life.”
Following the request of the Polish Prosecutor’s Office, the police enter the warehouse of Zięba’s online shop and secure every item that looks like a medicinal product. According to law, a special permit is needed to buy and sell them. Such permits are usually issued to pharmacies or pharmaceutical wholesalers. Zięba’s company is neither, but the warehouse is full of boxes and vials filled with pills. Zięba’s attorney would later estimate their value to be several millions of euros.
In September 2020, prosecutor’s office filed charges against Zięba, and his business partners Halina K. and Piotr D. (we will get to them later), who, between 2015 and 2019, acting as a “chairman of a company that managed another company,” sold medicinal products without a required permit” . In Poland, such criminal offence carries a penalty of up to 5 years in jail.
As we unofficially learnt, the Prosecutor’s office quoted opinions of two experts from the National Institute of Medicine. Both opinions are clear on the matter: many supplements sold by Zięba’s companies have the characteristics of medicinal products and a permit is needed to sell those. Others shouldn’t even be labeled as supplements, let alone sold on the market.
Matryoshka of companies
Companies with ties to Zięba and those registered by him personally have been making big money for years. We’ve managed to recreate a complex network of business relationships that allows those companies to profit from selling products promoted by the Polish alt-med influencer.
We have traced several enterprises – two in Czech Republic and three in Liechtenstein – with ties to Jerzy Zięba, his business partners or the online shop that sells supplements advertised by him. There is one more company registered in the US that distributes products in some states and in Canada. There was a similar company registered in the UK which accumulated profits worth millions of euros.
In Poland, supplements (and medicinal products, according to prosecutors) promoted by Zięba are sold by an online shop called Ukryteterapie.pl. You can buy vitamins A, B, C, D, K and P there, as well as omega-3 and amino acids. Prices vary, from a few dozen to 500 zlotys (aprox 120 EUR) per package.
You won’t find this information on the Polish website, but its English versions (Hiddentherapies.com and Visantous.com) inform that the brand was created 20 years ago by Jerzy Zięba, and that Visanto “is a family owned business with love and passion for creating the highest quality pure and natural supplements.”
This business structure resembles very much a matryoshka doll because the sole owner of Lifepack Group shares is a company called HKPD Foundation registered in the capital of Liechtenstein, Vaduz. HKPD Foundation uses the same address as Industrie- und Finanzkontor Etablissement. It’s a sort of financial “cap” that oversees assets of companies and funds registered in Liechtenstein. Its website informs that “with a Liechtenstein foundation, you can secure, arrange and preserve both your family and business assets in the long term, protecting them from unauthorised access and preserving them over several generations.”
Not much is known about Industrie- und Finanzkontor Etablissement but it was mentioned in Panama Papers investigation in 2016. The company acted as a go-between and helped in registering at least 5 companies in another tax haven, Panama.
We have asked this “cap” a number of questions about the HKPD Foundation (and also sent them to the board of the Foundation), but have not received any answers.
A maze with an address in haven
HKPD is an acronym made up from initials of Jerzy Zięba’s longtime business partners – Halina K. and Piotr D. Just like Zięba, they’ve been accused of selling medicinal products without proper permits. Both are part of a complex maze that forms a business network tied to the Polish hypnotherapist.
Halina K. and Piotr D. are both board members of HKPD, a company registered in Poland. Its virtual office is located in an office building on Plac Bankowy in Warsaw. The very same address serves as a registered office of a general partnership company called Egida Consulting which changed its name at the end of 2020 into Lipso GmbH & Co. Kommanditgesellschaft.
Interestingly, two more companies with a similar name – Lipso GmbH – were registered in Liechtenstein. One is a limited partnership (marked as No. 1 on the infographic) and the other a limited liability company (2).
Lipso GmbH (registered in Liechtenstein) has two partners. One is a Polish company called Egida Consulting Sp. z o. o. Its board members are Jerzy Zięba and Halina K. The other is also a Polish company called HKJC which belongs to Halina K. At the same time, this Lipso GmbH is a partner in the Polish Lipso.
Halina K. also owns shares in the second Lipso GmbH company registered in Liechtenstein. That one is being managed by a local firm called Audina Treuhand AG. It specializes in providing services for companies registered in tax havens. Panama Papers investigation showed that Audina Treuhand AG had almost 600 clients registered in Panama, British Virgin Isles and Singapore.
From this maze of names and addresses emerges one thing. Entities that oversee Zięba’s enterprises are subject to very lenient and profitable Liechtenstein tax laws. How much do they move? What part of the profits made from selling shady supplements goes to the company and the foundation registered in a tax haven?
We might never know. Lichtenstein law guarantees total confidentiality to its resident companies, and Audina Treuhand is not providing any answers to our questions.
Under the palm trees and Big Ben
But we do know how much money Lipso (former Egida Consulting) is making in Poland.
2018 was a record-setting year, as Lipso had 11.9 million euro in revenue and net profit of 5.6 million euro. One year later, the company registered 6 and 1,6 million euro respectively. Next two years were distinctively worse – a loss of 336.500 euro in 2020, and a profit of only 224.300 in 2021. Still, it remains in a healthy condition as its assets are worth around 11.2 million euro.
It’s no wonder that the company could have afforded an apartment with four bedrooms with separate wardrobes, a living-room and dining-room in a luxurious building in Wilanów, an affluent Warsaw’s district. Land and mortgage register states that the apartment belongs to Egida Consulting sp. z o.o. has 291 square metres. Today, similar flats in the same neighborhood are sold for up to 830.000 euro.
But even that apartment can’t compare with a spacious villa in Palm Harbor, Florida, located on the shore of Lake Tarpon. It serves as a registered office of Kasia Chaplle LCC, a company owned by Katarzyna Chapple, an American of Polish descent. It distributes Visanto brand products throughout North America. From Lipso’s yearly financial statements, we know that the company belonging to Jerzy Zięba and Halina K. supplies Chapple with goods and services worth millions of euros (over 381.400 euro in 2021 alone). You can order the supplements online or buy in one of the stores located in the US (Illinois, New York and New Jersey) or Canada.
Zięba visits the States very often. He gives lectures to the Polish communities, praising alternative medicine. Katarzyna Chapple refused to answer our questions regarding her dealings with Zięba, citing commercial confidentiality.
Supplements advertised by Zięba are sold not only on the American market. Between 2015 and 2020, the majority of Egida Consulting (now Lipso) shares belonged to Investments Limited Partnership whose registered office was located in an inconspicuous single-storied building in Enfield, a northern part of London. Most shares were owned by Egida Consulting Sp. z o. o., the rest by five English companies belonging to Ireneusz Klader. Who is he? Klader describes himself on Linkedin portal as a chairman of Law and Accounting Firm Regatio. Regatio has offices in the same building in Rzeszów where the main company of Halina K. was registered. Klader specializes in registering companies in the UK. Aforementioned building in Enfield serves as a registered office for 30 different firms.
For 5 years, it was Egida Investments Limited Partnership, British company of Zięba and Halina K., who pocketed most of the profits from selling supplements in Poland and abroad – from hundreds of thousands to a few millions euro.
Documents pertaining to the division of profits, for both the Polish and English companies alike, are signed by the same persons: Jerzy Zięba and Halina K.
Rzeszów: many signboards, few people
And who is Halina K.? A woman with dark red hair, wearing a two-piece suit smiles from a Facebook profile picture. K. finished high school in Rzeszów, and graduated from two Ukrainian universities: Shevchenko University in Kyiv and Kyiv Institute of Civil Aviation Engineers. From her Linkedin profile we learn that she worked for Pol-China Trade and Business Ltd., which traded powdered milk, whey and chicken legs. The company, dissolved in 2018, was registered in Hong Kong.
She meets Zięba in Halico company, where she also meets Piotr D. (born in 1979, also in Rzeszów), her business partner in Lipso, who was accused, alongside her, of selling medicinal products without proper permits. D. is a board member of 2PP company from Warsaw specializing in PR.
In October 2014, Halina K. registers her business activity under the name Egida, and lists publishing books as a main line of business. In the same year, Egida publishes “Ukryte terapie” (“Hidden Therapies”), a book written by Zięba that quickly gains a cult status among alternative medicine fans. In March 2015, both entrepreneurs decide to keep the wheels turning and create Egida Consulting. Jerzy Zięba becomes its chairman, and K. a member of the board. In November 2015, Halina K., using her sole proprietorship company, registers Ukryte Terapie and Visanto trademarks in France. At that time, Zięba is already a board member of Halico, a company producing rubber and metal materials. Halina K. becomes a partner in Halico in 2016.
Legal documents show that Halico buys products and services from Lipso (former Egida). In 2021, it paid over 48.500 euro. Halico also gets sizable loans from Lipso, the last one for 224.300 euro. Halico Chairman is Michał Lotosiński. He and Zięba were both board members of another company when the latter was just an unknown engineer.
Halina K. and Zięba are not just business partners. They’ve given the same address of residence in court, a villa in Rzeszów. Two-storied building stands out with its snow-white siding, solid fence, and neatly trimmed lawn. We press the button on the entry phone. No one answers. Neighbours living on the same street don’t want to talk about the pair of entrepreneurs.
Few kilometers farther, stands a tall office building. There’s a man sitting at the reception desk, and we ask him about Zięba. He thinks for a while and then says that Zięba does not come here very often. On the fourth floor, we find an office with a closed door and Egida Consulting sign on them. It’s not the only one, there are many more. Each sign lists a company with ties to Zięba, past and present.
We recognize the “Ukryte terapie” brand, as well as Egida Consulting name (though formally, its office is located in Warsaw). HKJC company is the newest firm registered by Halina K., and thus far it incurred only losses (2.400 euro in 2021). But it performs a very important role as a partner in the Polish Lipso company. There’s also a Packit company logo on the door. Packit trades with Lipso GmbH and employs Zięba (who told the investigators that he has a monthly salary of 1.100 euro.
And Fundacja Polacy dla Polaków (Poles For Poles Foundation) logo. Zięba acts as its president. It was funded by Polska Akademia Zdrowia (Polish Academy of Health) society. Its chairman, Marek Wawrzeńczuk (also a member of the foundation’s board), is often depicted as a healthy lifestyle enthusiast. On his Facebook account, he posts photos from trips to Asia where he meets alt medicine advocates and fans. He also posts photos with himself and Jerzy Zięba.
The aim of the foundation is to raise funds for medical marijuana treatments for children diagnosed with drug resistance or brain tumour. There’s a long list of names on the foundation’s website mentioning all the kids who supposedly received from a dozen to tens of thousands of euros.
We wanted to ask every person mentioned in this article about Zięba’s business activities, including him. Piotr D. is the only one who answers our phone calls. He denies having any connections with Zięba. “That’s not me, you must have dialed the wrong number. Goodbye,” he says and quickly hangs up.
We also sent a dozen or so questions concerning the business holding to e-mail addresses of Zięba, Piotr D., Halina K, Katarzyna Chapple and Irenuesz Klader, and to e-mail addresses of their respective companies.
Zięba at first wrote back that he’s “not the addressee” of our questions and he’s “not authorized to comment on private entities mentioned in those questions.” A few days later, he sent another, much longer email. He again did not address any of the questions raised, nor did he respond to the request for a meeting. Instead, he listed the topics he thought we should be addressing, including sepsis, which he says is “trivially easy to treat” and vaccines, after which, he writes, “newborns die immediately”. Companies in the Czech Republic and Liechtenstein? “Who in Poland is interested in the structures of some small PRIVATE firemanship which, as far as I understand, operates perfectly legally. The public interest is none,” he comments.
And what is the authorities’ position towards Zięba? Although we asked the Ministry of Health specific questions about its evaluation of its activities, the press office replied that it does not comment on “press reports”.
George runs away from Jaruzelski
A bearded man looks at us shyly from a black and white photo found in the article posted by blogger Łukasz Sakowski on his portal Totylkoteoria.pl. It’s Zięba though you can barely recognize him. The photo is old, from his diploma in mining and metallurgical engineering awarded by the University of Science and Technology in Cracow.
His interest in medicine stems from an unpleasant affliction, a perforated duodenal ulcer, he had to endure when he was 19. In the interview given to Szymon Krawiec, a journalist from “Wprost” magazine, he says that he was admitted to a hospital. World of doctors, diagnosis, surgeries and medicines absorbed him completely. He would borrow books from a friend who studied medicine, and would read them at night. In 1981, when he received his diploma, he was still just a Jerzy, but very soon he would become a George.
At least that is how he presents himself in a CV, still available online. Zięba’s CV pictures him as a one-time emigrant with a wealth of professional experience gained in numerous German and Australian companies. He leaves Poland after graduation. When exactly? It’s hard to tell. His bio posted on Naszaklasa.pl portal (and shared by Łukasz Sakowski on Totylkoteoria.pl) points to November 1981. (“I got the passport in a hideously twisted way.”) But the article published in “Wprost” in 2017 suggests Zięba left Poland in 1982, meaning after the imposition of martial law, when traveling abroad was extremely restricted in the communist regime.
Hypnotizer and aviator
Zięba goes to Germany. He works at a fancy sauna, and as an electrician at the butcher’s shop. He also meets his first wife there. Then he leaves for the land down under.
In Australia, his career allegedly gets a big boost. His CV lists an employment history covering almost two decades: from “design engineer” to managing director of 8 Australian companies, where he supervised management and marketing. In the “hobby” section, Zięba mentions aviation (he claims to have a pilot license and to know how to fly helicopters), and hypnotherapy. In interviews he seldom gives, he states that he is a clinical hypnotherapist with two diplomas, one received in the US, and the other in Australia. While living in Australia, he owned a private hypnotherapeutic practice, seeing his patients at his home. But members of the Polish community don’t remember Zięba very well, and don’t recall him being a hypnotherapist. In fact, they don’t know much about him at all. He was not a well-known figure in the Polish community in Sydney. Between 2001 and 2002, he only served as a chairman of Polish Club in Ashfield, a local cultural organization.
Zięba, according to his CV, returns to his homeland in 2003 to give lectures at the Silesian School of Business and Marketing.
In 2011, Zięba becomes a chairman in a company from Marklowice that produces metal parts. There he meets Michał Latosiński. Very soon, he, Latosiński, and Halina K., will team up in another company, Halico.
In the interview given to Szymon Krawiec, Zięba claims that he went into business with his old friends, and they’ve cheated him out of it. That is not how his coworkers remember it. “I can’t say I’m very pleased about the work that gentleman did in our company,” says a senior employee, and adds that Zięba couldn’t have fulfilled his tasks properly, because at the time he was a chairman, he devoted himself to writing his first book (“Hidden Therapies”).
The profits will come to you
In the same interview, Zięba admits that after his professional set-back he had nothing to eat, and nowhere to live. In those desperate times he decides to bet on alternative medicine. He reads articles written by Janina Grella for the monthly magazine “Shaman” (“Szaman”).
Grella invites Zięba to her “Closer to Health, Closer to Nature” (“Bliżej zdrowia, bliżej natury”) fair, where he talks, for the first time, about “alternative” ways of coping with diseases. He gains new contacts and market know-how, meeting with supplement producers, herb sellers, and natural treatment promoters. Some of them know him. Two years earlier, he co-translated Uffe Ravnskov’s book “The Cholesterol Myths” from English. The author claims that cholesterol is not bad for health.
In 2013, Zięba registers Ukryteterapie.pl website. One year later, he publishes his book, and starts a blog. He quickly abandons that idea to focus on selling supplements online. The book is a turning point. It becomes very popular among the alt-med fans and quickly achieves a cult status. From now on, Zięba attends Grella’s fair and gives speeches every year. His popularity grows constantly.
Today, Jerzy Zięba’s posts have enormous reach, which helps him to promote and sell supplements.
In 2023, one of the most popular posts on Ukryte Terapie – Jerzy Zięba Facebook page generated 6.1 thousand reactions, 358 comments and 339 shares. In it, Zięba shares a link to another post written by Piotr Jawornik who is closely tied to Justyna Socha and her anti-vaccination society STOP NOP (FRONTSTORY.PL wrote more about it in April 2022). Jawornik writes about a “raid on Zięba”, and mentions that Zięba became an “honorary member” of STOP NOP in 2018.
What’s the secret behind the growing popularity and business success of Jerzy Zięba? His CV ends with “George’s” motto: “Chase after quality. The profits will come to you.”
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