According to Gazeta Wyborcza’s sources, special services are carrying out informal surveillance of guests at hotels managed by the Polish Hotel Holding. However, the Polish Hotel Holding claims that the rumours presented by Gazeta Wyborcza’s are false.
- Gazeta Wyborcza revealed some extracts from disturbing hotel correspondence which demonstrate, among others, that the PHH has violated the general hospitality industry standards
- The published correspondence includes information about the exact venue and date of the meeting, and the expected arrival of the so-called “health officer “
- According Gazeta Wyborcza’s interlocutors, a “health officer” is an internal term used by the Internal Security Agency denoting the support of special technology, i.e. eavesdropping and surveillance set up by the intelligence services
- Gazeta Wyborcza has also published an affidavit made by Robert Z. in the presence of a notary public, in which Gazeta’s source reveals the details of his collaboration with the intelligence services, which were planning to spy on Bartosz Kramek.
Gazeta Wyborcza recalls the meeting of top politicians representing the Civic Platform with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a Belarussian opposition leader at Courtyard by Marriott Warsaw Airport. The hotel itself is managed by a state-owned company known as the Polish Hotel Holding (PHH).
The day before the meeting, Gheorghe Marian Cristescu, CEO at PHH, sent the detailed information about the meeting to the current MEP and a leading Law and Justice Politician, Joachim Brudziński (once considered to be the ‘right hand’ of Jarosław Kaczyński, and former Head of the Interior Ministry – ed.). According to Gazeta Wyborcza’s sources, PHH’s associates were obliged to share information about the most important hotel guests with the Company’s CEO.
Generally, PHH distances itself from Gazeta Wyborcza’s reports, claiming that the newspaper just replicates ‘fake news’. Nevertheless, according to Robert Z., (the second of Gazeta’s sources) who has been referred to as “Head of Security at PHH”, the above case was not an isolated incident, and information about hotel guests had also been passed on to the Law and Justice agencies in the past.
“A Health Officer”
Mr Gheorghe Marian Cristescu, CEO at PPH is an experienced hotelier. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, his professional career gained momentum when the Law and Justice came to power. Since 2016 he had been in charge of Chopin Airport Development, which subsequently transformed into PHH in 2019. Mr Cristescu served as an aide to the Minister of Sports, and was awarded the Cross of Merit by President Andrzej Duda. In 2022, the pro-government daily paper Gazeta Polska Codziennie honoured him with the Freedom of Speech Award.
Gazeta Wyborcza disclosed some pieces of the alarming hotel correspondence which proves, among others, that PHH has been violating the hospitality industry standards. The published content includes the information about the exact venue and date of the meeting, its participants and the presence of the State Protection Service officers, who were to “discuss the details” with Artur D. (the general manager of the hotel where the meeting was to be held). The message was addressed to Robert Z. – the aforementioned Gazeta’s source.
The message also says: „The dinner menu and drinks have been confirmed by the hosts but the health officer will also arrive”. Who is the “health officer”? According to Gazeta Wyborcza’s interlocutors, it is the term used by the Internal Security Agency to describe the support of special technology, i.e. eavesdropping and surveillance set up by the intelligence services.
– Mr Cristescu called me into his office. He said that the boys needed to be helped, because they might want to know something about this meeting – says Robert Z to Gazeta Wyborcza.
According to Robert Z., after his conversation with Joachim Brudziński, he was summoned by Maciej Wąsik, Law and Justice’s MP and Deputy Minister of Interior, acting as Coordinator of Special Services. Robert Z. was already familiar with Ms Wąsik, as he was an MP from his constituency. He also says that he got the job at the PHH thanks to him.
— I said that I would not like to be involved in anything like that — says Robert Z – adding that he suggested that if they wanted to know what happened at that meeting, let them plant their own man from the State Protection Service to act as Tsikhanouskaya’s bodyguard. According to Robert Z., such operations had been carried out before. After all, they had done this before” Robert Z. tells us. As he suspects, in the end, the ISA might hire a waiter, who agreed to cooperate.
Gazeta Wyborcza asked Mr Wąsik whether he was “aware of the surveillance of hotel guests staying at PHH hotels by the secret services” but did not get any reply.
How the services planned to catch Bartosz Kramek in the act
Gazeta Wyborcza also asked Mr Wąsik about a different case. The daily has also covered the story of Bartosz Kramek, Chair of the Open Dialogue Foundation who is engaged in actions aimed at protecting democracy and the rule of law in Poland and Eastern European countries, and has been involved in a dispute with the Law and Justice Government. The article also refers to a lawsuit brought by Mr Kramek against Deputy Minister Wąsik, who allegedly violated his personal rights.
Robert Z. has testified that the ISA tasked him with informal surveillance of selected hotel guests, including Mr Kramek, and that Mr Wąsik was personally interested in collecting information which might discredit the head of the Open Dialogue. In February 2023 Robert Z. contacted Bartosz Kramek gave him an account of the illegal acts he was forced to perform at PHH.
Gazeta Wyborcza published an affidavit issued by Roberta Z. in the presence of a notary public. In his statement, Robert Z. claims that in February 2019 he took up a job of the Head of Security at PHH, which was created especially for him.
His key duties included supervising tenders and purchases carried out by the Company within the Anti-Corruption Shield, cooperating with various security agencies and services, obtaining sensitive information that may be of significance for the security of the State, supervision of the security staff at hotel facilities located nearby airports. He was assigned as a source of information for the ISA and CAB, which supervised his work. Robert Z. was in charge of providing such agencies with far-reaching assistance in obtaining information about hotel guests, providing access to surveillance records, which were to be disclosed in violation of the GDPR and other provisions, always when the agencies deemed them useful.
Gazeta Wyborcza’s source recalls a situation which occurred in autumn 2019. He was summoned to the office of his superior who asked him if he knew who was staying in their hotel. Robert Z. was not surprised by such question, as he realised that visitors from countries suspected of terrorism often stay overnight at airport hotels. However, his superior was interested in a very specific person i.e. Mr Bartosz Kramek.
The CEO suggested that Robert Z. should notify Maciej Wąsik that Mr Kramek stayed at the hotel. According to Robert Z. Mr Wąsik was very agitated by the news and immediately called the ISA coordinator. Robert Z. was invited to a meeting with the ISA officers and asked to keep them posted each time Mr Kramek arrives at the hotel, including the forms of payments made by him, his credit card details, and to facilitate the installation of technical operating aids in his hotel room. If these devices could not be installed, he was to allow the room to be searched after Kramek’s departure, or to carry out such inspection in person.
Robert Z. claims that the very situation aroused his suspicions.
I started to pay close attention to the case and follow the archival reports on Mr. Kramek and it soon dawned on me that this was not about prosecuting a criminal but simply fighting an activist who publicly criticised the Law and Justice’s government. Then I realised that the further involvement in this matter was first of all, unlawful, and secondly simply immoral. So I started to avoid contacts with the ISA.
— says Robert Z. in his statement quoted by Gazeta Wyborcza.
It goes on to say that Robert Z. was ‘brought to his senses’ by ‘the ISA’s good policeman’, so he decided to pretend to assist the ABW in detaining Kramek by reporting a false hotel room booking. The ISA planted cameras and bugged the room, but it soon turned out that Mr Kramek actually stayed abroad at that time. The agents allegedly held grudges against Robert Z. for misleading them.
Robert Z. claims that he was wondering whether he should inform Mr Kramek about the ISA’s illegal action for a long time. Finally, he concluded that staying silent would be pointless and potentially dangerous.
– I know they collect compromising stuff against me and will disseminate lies (…) simply did not want to take part in breaking the law — says Robert Z to Gazeta Wyborcza.
In other media:
- Polityka: How much the PiS government knows about us and what it can do to us. It has the most sensitive, intimate data (August 14, 2023)
- TOK.fm: The Hotel scandal. Why did the deputy Minister of the Interior and Administration order a search of Bartosz Kramek’s room? “He brazenly used the services” (May 26, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Bartosz Kramek is seeking an apology and a compensation of PLN 1 million for being invigilated at hotels (May 23, 2023)
- Horeca Business Club: Bugged hotels of the Polish Hotel Holding: Request for a Council of Europe investigation (May 1, 2023)
- Radio Zet: Yet another bugging scandal? ‘Surveillance in hotels, searching for condoms’ (April 28, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Poland’s government colluded with state-owned hotel chain to spy on political opponents (April 25, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: The Hotel Scandal. The Marriott Headquarters: “We are taking all efforts to ensure a warm welcome for everyone” (April 24, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: The hotel scandal. Threats against the whistleblower (April 22, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Bugged hotels discussed in the Sejm. The whistleblower met with opposition MPs (April 21, 2023)
- Trybuna: The room service (April 20, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Agnieszka Kublik: Stay alert while in a hotel bathroom! This is not a hitchcock movie, this is Kaczyński’s Poland (April 19, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: The hotel scandal. After the article published by ‘Wyborcza’, Kramek wants Wąsik and Brudziński prosecuted (April 18, 2023)
- Horeca Business Club: Bugged hotels of the Polish Hotel Holding Group (April 17, 2023)
- Upday: Do Law and Justice party special services snoop on the opposition in hotels? (April 17, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Bugged hotel rooms – Law and Justice recidivists spring to action (April 17, 2023)
- Wirtualna Polska: Surveillance of hotel guests? The Polish Hotel Holding responds and denies involvement (April 17, 2023)
- Gazeta Wyborcza: Bugged Hotels. Gazeta Wyborcza Daily reveals how the Law and Justice’s secret services are keeping tabs on the opposition (April 17, 2023)