Chaos, resignations rock Polish government amid secret tape report leaks

Poland’s government is in chaos, following a series of ministerial and other high-ranking political resignations amid the leak of thousands of pages of confidential reports from an investigation into the secret tapes affair.

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Treasury minister Włodzimierz Karpiński, health minister Bartosz Arłukowicz and sports minister Andrzej Biernat have all left their posts.

They are joined by Tomasz Tomczykiewicz (secretary of state for the economy), Rafał Baniak (under-secretary at the Treasury), and Stanisław Gawłowski (secretary of state for the environment).

Radosław Sikorski has also stepped down as Speaker of the Sejm.

Prime minister Ewa Kopacz’s chief advisor, Jacek Rostowski, has resigned, as has head of special services Jacek Cichocki – although the latter remains in post as head of the office of the prime minister.

The resignations follow the leak of thousands of pages of confidential reports from an investigation into Poland’s secret tapes affair – including top secret information about the personal details of state security officers, and full transcripts of police interviews with suspects, witnesses and victims. The documents were published online, in what Mr Cichocki said on Monday was ‘the biggest leak of its kind in history’.

The man accused of publishing the material, Zbigniew Stonoga, was arrested on Tuesday evening, on suspicion of disseminating secret information. He was questioned and later released, under police observation. On the same day, ministers were summoned by Ms Kopacz, and the Prosecutor general, Andrzej Seremet, was ordered to prepare an explanation on the matter to the Sejm.

Mr Seremet delivered his explanation on Wednesday, saying that the prosecution had acted in accordance with the law, and could not be blamed for the leaked material.

Also on Wednesday, the page on which Mr Stonoga is alleged to have published the documents became unavailable. However, full copies of the documents have already found their way to servers around the world, and are easily available via a Google search.

On Wednesday evening, amid the resignations, Ms Kopacz said that she ‘did not accept’ the prosecutor general’s explanation.

However, she shrugged off suggestions of a public commission to investigate the leak, saying: “I believe the only institution that should clarify this matter is the prosecutors office, with a new prosecutor. A commission of inquiry, in my opinion, would only be a political football. Let the prosecutors office deal with this matter to the end.”

Ms Kopacz also apologised for the content of recordings made secretly at two Warsaw restaurants, which began to emerge in June 2014.

She said: “In the name of PO [Civic Platform] I would like to apologise to the electorate for what they have heard on recordings of conversations of PO politicians, made publically available.”

The tapes caught, among others:

  • A conversation between Central Anti-Corruption Bureau boss Paweł Wojtunik and former deputy prime minister Elżbieta Bieńkowska, suggesting that the arson attack on a guard booth outside the Russian embassy in Warsaw was planned.
  • A conversation between Marek Belka head of the National Bank of Poland, and Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, former minister of the interior, in which the sacking of the finance minister was suggested, in return for the bank’s help in keeping the government in power.
  • A conversation between former transport minister Sławomir Nowak and former deputy finance minister Andrzej Parafianowicz, in which the former asks the latter for help with a ‘tax issue’.
  • A conversation between former deputy prime minister Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Central Anti-Corruption Bureauboss Paweł Wojtunik, in which Ms Bieńkowska claimed that ‘only idiots work for 6,000 złoty per month’. The average in Poland is half that.
  • A conversation between then foreign minister Radosław Sikorski and then finance minister Jacek Rostowski, in which Mr Sikorski said Poland’s alliance with the US was worthless.

In all, recordings of 56 people, including former presidents and prime ministers, exist.

In June last year, Poland’s government survived a confidence vote in parliament, sparked by the recordings.

(via Inside Poland)

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