Secret tapes an attempt to destabilise Poland, says PM Donald Tusk

Donald Tusk links restaurant bugging of talks to country's anti-Russian stance on Ukraine

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 9:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 3:23am

Poland's prime minister said yesterday the secret recording of officials discussing affairs of state over restaurant meals was a plot to cripple the Polish state at a time when it is rallying European opposition to Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

But former security officers say the origin of the affair is probably more prosaic: someone saw an opportunity for commercial gain and exploited the fact that Poland's elite are lax about security when they go out for a meal.

The recordings, made over several months at two high-end Warsaw restaurants and which have been published in weekly news magazine Wprost, have included exchanges embarrassing for the government.

In one, according to the magazine, the foreign minister described US-Polish ties as worthless. In another the central bank chief and the interior minister discussed ways the bank could help the government avoid electoral defeat.

The government has said that the remarks of the officials who were secretly recorded were taken out of context, and that they had not broken the law.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk connected the illegal eavesdropping to Poland's role over neighbouring Ukraine, where it fiercely opposes Russian intervention, and to Warsaw's growing weight inside the European Union.

"There is no doubt that the bugging operation destabilises and reduces the capability of the Polish state," he said. "The aim is not to diminish the reputation of the ruling party, but of the state, at a critical moment in Europe and for the situation in Ukraine."

Last week Tusk described the tapes affair as an attempted coup d'etat. Marek Opiola, a member of parliament with the opposition Law and Justice Party said that sort of talk was a political ruse by the ruling party.

"[The party] is trying in this way to distract attention away from its own incompetence and the scandalous contents of the conversations between its own senior representatives," he said.

Tusk said he would not be forced by the illegal surveillance into changing his cabinet, and most analysts said no single bloc in parliament had enough votes to force a snap election.

Attention in Poland has turned to who could have carried out illegal surveillance on such a scale: the recordings captured on tape more than a dozen officials, politicians and company bosses in several meetings. Wprost magazine said it obtained the recordings from "a businessman".

Prosecutors say they detained a person but later released him.

Jerzy Dziewulski, a former presidential security adviser, said the bugging was too primitive to be the work of any nation's intelligence service.

"I am deeply convinced that this is the private activity of some person who saw and knew that VIPs met there, that they talked loudly … and decided to profit from that," he said.