Guests of hotels operated by the Polish Hotel Holding (PHH) are allegedly under surveillance, claims ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’. According to this daily, the special services harvest information on, among others, opposition activists. PHH strongly denies the newspaper’s claims and labels them ‘false’.
Relying on its informants, the ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ daily claims that the staff of the Polish Hotel Holding has a duty of informing the President, Gheorghe Marian Cristescu, about prominent hotel guests. This is how he was purportedly made aware of, among other things, a meeting which took place between Civic Platform activists and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarus presidency opposition candidate. The meeting was held in September 2020.
‘The Polish Hotel Holding Group does not comment on false information appearing in the public domain’ – replied the company to the questions asked by the ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ daily. Editors of the ‘Wirtualna Polska’ platform contacted the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration to be informed of the Ministry’s view on the matter. After speaking over the phone, we have sent our questions by email and we are awaiting the response.
Bugs in Hotels? Special Services Deny
As reported by the ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ daily, a day before the meeting took place the President of the Polish Hotel Holding allegedly sent an email to Joachim Brudziński, the former Head of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs and Administration, currently a Law and Justice (PiS) MEP. The message contained information about talks between Civic Platform activists and Tikhanovskaya. The content of the email was published by the ‘Poufna rozmowa’ (‘secret conversation’) platform; its authenticity was apparently confirmed by Robert Z., PHH security manager, in a conversation with ‘Wyborcza’.
‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ reported that a ‘sanitary physician’ was to be present during the meeting between Civic Platform activists and Tikhanovskaya. The daily emphasised that there is no such medical specialisation, but those familiar with the jargon used internally by the Internal Security Agency (ABW) claim that this term denotes the presence of ‘special technical devices, such as wiretapping and surveillance set up by the agency’.
‘If this term was used in internal emails between two important hotel employees, it means that they collaborate with the services and are at least supposed to facilitate their operational tasks’ – a former ABW officer explained to ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’.
‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ asked the Polish Hotel Holding whether there was any surveillance of hotel guests by staff in the hotels. The answer was unambiguous: ‘The Polish Hotel Holding Group denies any «regular surveillance by its staff of guests pinpointed by the Internal Security Agency in PHH hotels»’ – wrote the state-owned PHH.
Surveillance of Bartosz Kramek
Z., the interlocutor of ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’, was the security manager of the Polish Hotel Holding during the period from February 2019 to November 2021. He was then employed in the Ministry of the Internal Affairs and Administration. From the very beginning he purportedly opposed the idea of surveillance of PO activists during a meeting with the leader of the Belarusian opposition.
‘I told them that I would not take part in such a thing and added that if they wanted to know what happened during that meeting they could plant their own man to act as Tikhanovskaya’s protection officer from the State Protection Service (SOP). After all, they had already done it before’ – said Z.
As ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ has described, Z. was employed in the state-owned Polish Hotel Holding at the request of Joachim Brudziński and Maciej Wąsik (at present the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration). Z. is not ill at ease with having supported and cooperated with the Law and Justice party in the past because, as he claims, some of the party’s goals are dear to him. ‘I cannot, however, agree with the shameful methods and actions of some people’ he explained.
Z. was also alleged to have been reporting to Wąsik, who then served at the position of the Deputy Coordinator of the Special Services, about Bartosz Kramek’s frequent stays in hotels owned by the Polish Hotel Holding. Kramek is the President of the Open Dialogue Foundation which defends the rule of law and democracy in Poland and Eastern European countries. For this reason, Kramek is in conflict with the ruling party.
‘The meeting attended by two officers of the Internal Security Agency as well as myself took place on the second day. (…) I was informed that I was requested to notify each arrival of Mr. Kramek at the Renesans Hotel, to provide information on the his method of payment, credit card details, as well as to facilitate the installation of technical operational devices prior to Mr Kramek’s arrival at the hotel’ – wrote Z. in his statement.
Z. was purportedly also asked to ‘personally comb Kramek’s room’ in search for compromising evidence. ‘The overzealousness of the agents and their personal interest in Mr. Wąsik’s case began to arouse my suspicions not only about the lawfulness of these actions, but their expediency’ – said Z. and added that with the passing of time he has come to realise that ‘this was not about prosecuting a criminal, but simply fighting an activist’.
PHH Makes Accusations Against Robert Z.
What does the Polish Hotel Holding have to say about this? Although the ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ article did not in its questions mention Z. by name, in its response the company immediately went after Z.
‘The Polish Hotel Holding Group is aware that it is the former employee of the Polish Hotel Holding, Mr. Robert Z., who is behind dissemination of false information, and that it is done in retaliation for the failure to meet unfounded demands made against the company after termination of employment with this person’ communicated the company. The Polish Hotel Holding ‘has taken a number of legal steps and planned further action’ against its former employee.