New embarrassing details arise regarding secret recordings of Polish politicians during 2014 ‘waitergate’ scandal

Michal Tusk, right, the son of the former Polish PM and the European Council head, Donald Tusk, and his lawyer Roman Giertych, left, attend a special parliamentary commission session in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
By Grzegorz Adamczyk
3 Min Read

In 2014, a scandal broke out in Poland when a news outlet started to publish records of conversations illicitly recorded in fashionable Warsaw restaurants. These conversations involved prominent politicians from the Civic Platform (PO) government: the ministers of the interior, finance, and foreign affairs as well as the head of the central bank. The colorful language used and intrigues revealed were highly embarrassing to the then ruling PO.

Even more embarrassing was the fact that top officials were recorded by a bunch of waiters without the intelligence service’s knowledge. 

An investigation eventually uncovered that the recordings were organized by a businessman who was involved in the coal trade. Now, allegations have surfaced that the businessman involved sold the recordings to the Russians.  

The Public Prosecutor’s office on Wednesday published the testimony of a key witness. It did so after the leader of the opposition, Donald Tusk, called for a special parliamentary investigative committee to examine the case and. He and other opposition politicians claimed that the scandal back in 2014 helped the present ruling Law and Justice (PiS) win the parliamentary election in 2015, thereby showing that the Russians tampered with the electoral process in Poland. 

However, according to the testimony published on Wednesday, it turns out that the key witness in the case alleges that he was to hand over a €600,000 bribe to the then ruling PO, and that this amount was to be collected by Michał Tusk, the son of the former prime minister and present leader of the opposition, Donald Tusk.

The witness also alleges that he had bribed the then minister for infrastructure, Sławomir Nowak. Nowak is a PO politician who lost his job over allegations that he had failed to declare expensive gifts. He later became the head of the Ukrainian motorway building program and was detained in Poland for several months, facing allegations that he had taken a multitude of bribes during his time in Ukraine. 

The testimony of the witness concerned has not been verified, and the prosecutors have not acted on it. It is therefore ironic that the leader of the opposition, Donald Tusk, has chosen to make it an issue, thereby putting himself and his family under suspicion.

Some commentators are calling this a spectacular “self-own.”

The liberal opposition has argued that PiS knew the Russians were using the recordings to hit the liberal government and should not have played along. But recently it is the liberals who have latched on to the release of emails between key ministers in the present government, and it is the conservative ministers who are protesting that the release of these emails is the work of the Russians, which the opposition is happily and irresponsibly playing along with.

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