Friday, October 16, 2009

Polish Treasury Officials Wiretapped

From: WSJ
As political storm triggered by Polish Anti Corruption Agency, or CBA seems to be nearing end, at least for now, there are some implications that may be long-lasting.

What about the government’s very ambitious privatization agenda, if key officials in charge of privatization have their phones tapped and virtually everything they say can be leaked to the press and used in local political battles? Poland aims at over $12 billion in revenues from asset sales by the end of 2010.

“It’s likely that everyone knew that their phones could have been tapped, but nobody could expect this would be published in the press the next day,” one local government official said Tuesday.

CBA, remains on top pages of local newspapers, although public interest may start fading among indications that the agency head, Mariusz Kaminski, is leaking classified information to the press as he may lose the post any day. Kaminski, nominated by the previous right-wing government led by Law and Justice, now the main opposition party, has never hidden that his political affiliations were far from those of the current government.

Last week the Cabinet was reshuffled as Prime Minister Donald Tusk sought to minimize political damage from the alleged corruption scandal. The political storm had been triggered after a local daily published transcripts of phone conversations of a top politician of ruling Civic Platform with a businessmen friend, intercepted by CBA. Their somewhat “informal” dialogs showed that legislative process may have been influenced in an way that was far from formal. The politician was trying to assure the owner of a gambling firm that he would block the legislative process of a bill that was to impose extra taxes on gambling.

Over the weekend, new revelations from CBA hit the local press. This time, the local weekly Wprost published wiretapped phone conversations of key officials from the Treasury Ministry, which in Poland is responsible for privatization. Dialogs concerned a recently failed tender to sell local shipyards to a Qatari fund. This time, putting “linguistic” color aside, the transcripts are unlikley to trigger any charges, local media say