Meanwhile in Cuckooland 242

“Live by the sword, die by the sword”. This old proverb can describe well how PiS’ rein is going to end. As Donald Tusk’s government is not wasting any time in his attempt to bring PiS politicians and activists to justice, one of the investigations is dealing with the embezzlement of the Justice Funds money.

Click HERE to read the previous part of the series
Click HERE to see all the chapters of the series so far.

We wrote about it several times in this series, so just to recap: this fund, controlled by the Minister of Justice is set up to redistribute money from fines paid by criminals into helping victims of crime, but under Zbigniew Ziobro it was basically changed into free money for Ziobro party to reward their supporters, corrupt the media and buy votes. They were funnelling money to some shady NGOs established by their cronies, donating fire trucks to parishes that support PiS or supporting Rural Women’s Associations in the hope that will help them to secure voters of the farmers.

The investigation took an unexpected turn when one of the former employees of the ministry Tomasz Mraz, who decided to make a deal with the prosecutors, revealed that for 2 years he was making secret recordings of his superiors. Those recordings show that the tenders and competitions for the Justice Fund money were a total fiction and it was all personally decided by Zbigniew Ziobro and his closest co-workers. PiS politicians of course try to say that using such secret recordings would be illegal – and they are generally right – ordinarily, it would be illegal to use the fruits of the poisonous tree, but none other by Zbigniew Ziobro during his time as minister of justice made it legal to use illegally obtained evidence to prosecute people, which brings us to another popular Polish proverb: “one who tries to dig holes under others, usually falls into them himself” – or, in the English version, “gets the taste of his own medicine”.

It is ironic that it will most likely be an illegal, secret recording that finally might end Zbigniew Ziobro’s political party that, despite polling at around 1% thanks to close ties to Kaczyński’s PiS was able to decide the fate of 40 million people for many years, as it was the illegal recordings that made it possible in the first place.

Long-time readers might remember, that PiS managed to get to power after illegal recordings of opposition politicians were published back in 2014. We wrote about it in Britske Listy (English version here) even before the Absurdistan series started. Even though it was a decade ago, and PiS was doing everything to squeeze the last drop from those recordings (which was not so easy, as there was not much to incriminate anyone), the case of the secret recordings was never properly investigated. If anything, the investigations conducted (very reluctantly) under PiS only further muddled the background. But one thing is sure: the whole thing stinks of Russia very much.

Russia is now on the mouths of everyone. PiS continues their pitiful attempt to frame Donald Tusk as a pro-Russian agent. While nobody sane would take them seriously when they point out that Tusk was meeting Putin and called for a reset of the relationship with Russia (after all, this was the dominating narrative in the West back then and if Tusk was a Russian agent for that, then he would be in a good company, as Barak Obama was going along the same lines back then), apparently they are making some progress in spreading this narrative abroad: recently a renowned investigative journalist from Finland Jessika Aro published a new book, in which she teams up with leading PiS propagandists like Michał Rachoń to pump the Smoleńsk conspiracy theories.

Anyway, Polish politics recently consists mostly of both sides accusing each other of working with Russia while the openly pro-Russian right-wing party Konfederacja sits quietly in the corner. And while the accusation of Donland Tusk and his party of collaborating with Putin is, at best vague – as I mentioned above – the PiS had been acting in line with Putin’s politics for over a decade now, and if I was just to quote the paragraphs from Kaczyński’s speeches that parrot those of Putin 1:1 (EU is a threat, LGBT is a threat, we are the last bastion of defence of the Christian civilisation, EU tries to dominate Eastern European countries etc. etc. etc.) I would be able to fill this and at least 5 next columns of this series. Not to look too far, in a recent interview professor Zdzisław Krasnodęsbski, one of the PiS intellectual experts and their MEP in the interview for pro-PiS TV Station Republica said “The threat from our sovereignty from the West, so to vaguely say, is greater than from the East”.

Donald Tusk and other politicians of the ruling coalition are not holding back when he openly accuses PiS in general, as well as particular politicians – such as former minister of defence Antoni Macierewicz – of being pro-Russians or even Russian assets. But this is hardly news for everyone, investigative journalists such as Tomasz Piątek, Klementyna Suchanow, and Anna Mierzyńska or internet activists such as Facebook profile Doniesienia z Putinowskiej Polski have been banging about it for years.

But of course, it’s only now after PiS had been finally removed from power, that such allegations can be properly investigated. A special commission to investigate Russian and Belarussian interferences had been established. PiS accused Tusk of trying to get revenge, as they also had a commission that was supposed to investigate Russian interferences – but there was just a political theatre that aimed – and failed – to declare Tusk a Russian asset and prevent him from standing in the elections. Meanwhile, this one will be a proper body – comprised not of politicians, but of counter-intelligence experts, and it won’t be just a show for daytime TV.

But of course, it’s not like we don’t have those. Parliamentary commissions are already publicly investigating scandals like illegal attempts to organize postal elections during COVID-19 (see more here) or the illegal use of Pegasus spying devices against the politicians of the opposition (see more here). It is hard to say if those public shows will bring any material results, as the parliamentary commissions in Poland have a history of mostly being a political show, but, oh boy, it is so much fun to watch how Jarosław Kaczyński is being talked down by none other but Magdalena Filiks, the MP whose child was hounded to death by PiS propagandists (see more here). “I’d advise you to break with your heels now” she warned him when he tried to lecture her. “I kept what I think of you for myself, if I didn’t you would need several breaks for hygiene”. Of course, such exchanges will not push the investigation any further, but watching Kaczyński being shown where his place is is a great catharsis not only for Filiks but for the whole nation.

So far Kaczyński feels sure of himself. In a recent interview, he said “They have nothing on us”. Let’s hope those will be the famous last words. Because the investigations – both those led by parliamentary commissions and by the prosecutors – keep unveiling new facts. Recently we learned for example, that amongst the victims of Pegasus spying were also female soldiers of the military police that have been mobbed at work after reporting attempts of sexual assault by their superiors. There is also an investigation pending relating to the harassment of judges who opposed illegal “reforms” of the justice system and we are learning about how much Kaczyński’s whims cost the taxpayer: for example the cost of his use of police officers as his private security guards is estimated at 35 000 000 zł and more than 12 000 police officers were at least at some point involved in protecting Kaczyński (mostly from anti-PiS protests).

Another big scandal brewing is related to Orlen, a state-owned petroleum giant that during the PiS rule was chaired by Kaczynski’s favourite Daniel Obajtek, who repaid the favour by providing many political services to his party. It seems though that Obajtek was not such a genius manager as Kaczyński tried to paint him, and the record profits of Orlen were mostly due to the company still importing Russian oil at discount prices while charging Poles a premium and profits from the sale of the company’s assets. After PiS decided that Orlen had to merge with Lotos – another state-controlled oil giant – the EU regulators agreed to the fusion only on the condition, that some of Lotos’ assets would be sold to a third party. A report from the National Audit Office suggests that those were sold to Saudi-controlled Aramco and Hungarian MOL at a fraction of the price, resulting in the taxpayer losing an estimated 7.2 billion zł. The “unique” style of Obajtek management also shows in his failed business deal in which he employed a Lebanese man specialising in circumventing Iranian sanctions and alleged connections to Hezbollah as a CEO of an Orlen subsidiary company placed in a tax haven. This man promised to secure the import of oil from Venezuela and paid 1.6 billion to a middleman, a 25 old Chinese man in Dubai, who disappeared with the money.

Obajtek claims this is an attack on him, which is, apparently, the same as an attack on the vested interest of the Polish state. He claims to be not afraid, but unfortunately, the Police, that is trying to summon him as a witness in another case, are unable to locate him in the country – which is weird for someone who stands up in the oncoming international election and should be meeting voters as a part of his campaign.

But do you know who can be easily located? Tomasz Szmydt, a former judge, whose career had been accelerated after PiS got to power, after it had been discovered took part in the group that conducted a hate campaign on social media against the judges who opposed PiS judicial “reforms”. Despite this and another case – in which he harassed a journalist – he ended up as a judge in a department dealing with secret information. So where is he? In Mińsk. He fleed to Belarus and asked for political asylum there, arguing that Poland under Donald Tusk is not a democratic country any more – as he was kind to explain as a guest in a Russian propaganda show hosted by Vladimir Soloviev.

PiS and Ziobro’s people are trying to do their best to distance themselves from their former colleagues, but this was a big blow to their argument that it’s not them who are Russian agents. Meanwhile, Russian activities in Poland increased. Donald Tusk had not ruled out that the recent fire in the biggest market centre in Warsaw was caused by Russian saboteurs. “We have recorded 7 attempts – successful, or prevented at last moment – of Russian sabotage actions. Those were acts of arson or attacks on people on the Polish soil”. One of those would be most likely a fire in a paint factory in Wrocław, caused by a Ukrainian man working for Russia. As I write those words Radio Zet informed that another attempt had been prevented and the Polish secret services secured radio-controlled incendiary devices.

It seems that Donald Tusk really has a lot on his mind. All while trying to balance political frictions in his ruling coalition. But he must not forget that while he rode on the white horse to save Poland from PiS, it was a borrowed horse. He got to power in large part thanks to the votes of left-wing Poles, who considered him to be the only hope to break Poland off from the embrace of the conservative, corrupt PiS. And while taking PiS apart is going relatively well, other aspects are not so much. Little is done in regard to the abortion issue or LGBT rights. The proposed solution to the housing crisis (pouring more taxpayer’s money into the pocket of the developers) was deemed utterly idiotic by the left – as previous similar programs only resulted in pumping up the property prices. And the situation on the Belorussian border remains unchanged – the Border Guard still breaks the law, people still die on the border, the volunteers helping them are still harassed by the justice system… Just recently a 17 years old lone girl from Somalia (by Polish law she is still a minor!) had been picked up from the hospital by the Border Guard and thrown into the slip of no-man’s land between the Belarussian border and the fence on the Polish side – and despite the fact that she already applied for international protection in Poland.

Personally, this worries me. If Tusk will squander the popular support that brought him to power then even if he manages to finally put all criminals from PiS into the jail, the government that will come after him – in light of growing Russian interference – might be even worse. Poland is not out of the woods yet.

This piece was written for Britské Listy
Illustration: collage created with public domain picture. 



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