“You will be contacted by someone from the Internal Security Agency. I would like to make a huge request of you. Do what I ask of you.” – according to the Polish Hotel Holding’s former Security Manager, these were the words used by the Deputy Minister for Interior, Maciej Wąsik, to encourage him to move forward with the surveillance of Bartosz Kramek of the Open Dialogue Foundation.
“The commissioning of illegal surveillance can be seen both as an abuse of power by a public officer, and unlawful attempt to obtain information” – reads the letter that Bartosz Kramek’s lawyers sent on Monday to the Polish Hotel Holding, a state-owned company operating the largest hotel network in Poland, also including such brands as Marriott, Hilton and Best Western.
Bartosz Kramek seeks a public apology from the PHH (e.g. on TVP News) and a compensation of PLN 1 million as a contribution to the statutory objectives of the Open Dialogue Foundation, which provides assistance to the fighting Ukraine and monitors violations of democracy in Poland.
A personal source of information used by the Internal Security Agency and the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau
Bartosz Kramek’s public statement was based on a testimony disclosed by Gazeta Wyborcza, which was originally made by a whistleblower, Robert Ziółkowski (Mr Ziółkowski was formerly known as Robert Z., but has recently consented to have his full name disclosed), a long-term supporter of the Law and Justice, who used to cooperate with Maciej Wąsik, an MP and Deputy Minister for Interior and Administration. Ziółkowski claimed that when he worked as Security Manager at the PHH, one of his key duties was to liaise with representatives of the secret services, including “obtaining information on hotel guests”. He was allegedly registered as a personal source of information by the Internal Security Agency and the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, which appointed officers-in-charge to guide him.
According to Mr Ziółkowski, in the autumn of 2019 he was summoned to the office of Gheorghe Marian Cristescu, CEO at PHH, who suggested that he informed the then Deputy Coordinating Minister of Special Services Maciej Wąsik that Bartosz Kramek was a frequent guest at the Renaissance Warsaw Airport Hotel. Both Mr Kramek and his Foundation are vehemently repudiated by the existing government, and Mr Wąsik has had a civil suit against him. In accordance with Ziółkowski’s statement, the Deputy Minister was pleased to see that there was an opportunity to collect various information which might discredit Bartosz Kramek.
Ziółkowski was advised to search Kramek’s room in his absence. He was also expected to take part in a provocation targeted against the activist. All such operations were to be carried out without any legal basis whatsoever, and therefore they were against the law.
Anonymous phone calls and text messages prompting a suicide
The whistle-blower claims that he initially pretended to cooperate, and eventually pulled out of this cooperation totally, outraged by the methods of action suggested to him by the special services. He lost his job at PHH, and then he continued to work for a short period of time at the Ministry for Interior and Administration. At the beginning 2023 he contacted Bartosz Kramek and provided his affidavit authenticated by a notary public.
Ziółkowski admitted that as confirmation of the authenticity of his statements he had among others, the recordings of his conversations with Mr Wąsik and the ISA agents.
When the affair was disclosed by Gazeta Wyborcza, the PHH denied everything. Ziółkowski was called to discontinue “slandering the company”. The PHH sent their clarifications and rectifications to our editorial team. They claimed that their cooperation with the Internal Security Agency – if any at all – has taken place only in line with the law. If, on the other hand, any illegal activities had ever been taken, the company had no knowledge of them. The PHH also implies that if the law had ever been breached, it was Mr Ziółkowski who was responsible for such violations.
Maciej Wąsik has chosen not to take any position on this subject. At the same time, the Internal Security Agency has informed us that they “will not comment on this issue”.
Robert Ziółkowski met with opposition MPs from the team led by Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska MP shortly after his account was made public. And he repeated his entire statement. After the meeting, he started getting anonymous phone calls and text messages suggesting that he should commit suicide.
Before the letter was even sent to the PHH, Bartosz Kramek had already filed a notice with the public prosecutor’s office. Last week, he testified there for several long hours. It is not yet known whether an investigation will be launched in the case.
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)
- 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)
- 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)