Marriott HQ refers to reports of surveillance of Marriott guests in Poland as “unfounded”.
“Our franchisee has assured us that these allegations are unfounded. As a corporation, we take the privacy of our guests and business customers very seriously and make every effort to ensure that everyone receives a warm welcome” – Liza Ravenscroft, Marriott International’s Head of Communications for Europe, has written to Gazeta Wyborcza.
The Hotel Scandal. “A Warm Welcome’ or an e-mail message to Mr Brudziński
We were informed of Mr Ravenscourt’s position on Thursday. In our response, we pointed out that the “franchisee” she mentioned, namely the Polish Hotel Holding – a state-owned company that manages Marriott hotels in Poland – is unlikely to be neutral on the matter. As a matter of fact, the information revealed by Gazeta Wyborcza relates precisely to Gheorghe Cristescu, CEO at the Polish Hotel Holding.
We have reported that on 9 September 2020, Mr Cristescu personally notified Mr Joachim Brudziński, one of the top parliamentarians representing the Law and Justice, via e-mail about the planned meeting of Polish opposition politicians with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at Courtyard by Marriott in Warsaw. The message contained detailed information on the room booked by the opposition members, time of the meeting and security measures. We have also quoted the content of an affidavit made in the presence of a notary public by Robert Z., a former Head of Security at PHH, who acted as a whistle-blower. Mr Z asserts that PHH workers have cooperated with secret services by sharing information about selected hotel guests indicated by such services, mainly by the Internal Security Agency. Robert Z. has had some political connections with Maciej Wąsik, Deputy Minister of the Interior and Administration and the Law and Justice’s MP. In his affidavit, Mr Z reports that Mr Wąsik asked him to cooperate with the ISA as part of measures taken against Bartosz Kramek, an opposition activist, who was a guest at Marriott.
We asked a Marriott spokesperson to respond to this news, in particular to the subject of Mr Cristescu’s email addressed to Mr Brudzinski. We asked her whether it was a standard Marriott policy for hotel managers to disclose data on opposition members’ meetings to politicians in power, and whether it fitted into the category of a “warm welcome”. We are still looking forward to her reply.
Unknown perpetrators make threats against the whistle-blower
On Friday, Robert Z. met the Civic Platform’s state security threats investigation team, chaired by Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska. The meeting lasted ca. 2 hours and was closed to the media. The proceedings were recorded.
– In my opinion, he is a Law and Justice figure who could no longer tolerate what was going on there – Ms Kluzik-Rostkowska told us after the meeting. – Our guest confirmed all information published by Gazeta Wyborcza and included in his notarised testimony. That was a very interesting encounter. Mr Robert Z. once had close relations with Maciej Wąsik, who represented his constituency as an MP. He admitted that he still supported the Law and Justice’s ideology and did not approve some operating methods adopted by certain party activists – explains Ms Kluzik-Rostkowska. She adds that the whistle-blower has also promised to attend subsequent meetings.
We reported on Robert Z’s conversation with the team led by Kluzik-Rostkowska on Wyborcza.pl. On the night between Friday and Saturday, the whistle-blower received a series of dead phone calls. He also received text messages urging him to hang himself. Calls from restricted numbers occurred from 1 am to 5 am. There were about 20 telephone calls and there were also text messages. Their senders asked Robert Z. “if he could go to the shed” – The implication was that I should go (to the shed) to hang myself – Robert Z. tells Gazeta Wyborcza.
He has consulted with his lawyer in the morning and intends to file a charge for criminal harassment “perpetrated in order to make him feel threatened “.
The ISA, the Ministry of Interior and Administration, as well as Messrs Wąsik and Brudziński remain silent
Following the publication of an article in Gazeta Wyborcza, Bartosz Kramek filed a notice with the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Opposition MPs taking part in the special services committee would like to look into the matter.
The ISA, the Ministry of Interior and Administration, Messrs Wąsik and Brudziński refuse to comment on the case.
The Polish Hotel Holding is the only active interlocutor. In their replies to our questions, the Company has completely ignored the topic of Mr Cristescu’s e-mail message to Mr Brudziński. Instead, they focus on discrediting Robert Z. as a reliable source of information. They allege that after he left his job he demanded money that was not due to him. Since Thursday, lawyers hired by PHH have been showering our editorial team with their corrigenda of facts (there are already five of them) in which they deny the information we have published. However, their letters do not contain any references to the e-mail exchanges between Messrs Cristescu and Brudzinski, either. The Polish Hotel Holdings asserts that: “there is no unlawful surveillance of guests at their hotel” immediately adding that: “each assistance provided to the authorities of the Polish State [i.e. Central Anticorruption Bureau, Internal Security Agency, Public Prosecutor’s Office] takes place within the limits and on the basis of the provisions of generally applicable law “. The PHH also claims that “if Robert Z. has ever taken any illegal measures, he has been doing it without PHH’s knowledge and consent”.
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. 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)
- Onet: Bugged hotels. This is how special services reportedly spied on the opposition (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)