Jan Cienski in Warsaw -
The “Waitergate” recording scandal in which top Polish officials were recorded while eating at fancy Warsaw restaurants is looking increasingly like a murky domestic crime drama, with little proof emerging of earlier suppositions that Russia was behind the affair.
The tapes were published in the Wprost news weekly about five months ago, and badly damaged the government of former prime minister Donald Tusk. At the height of the scandal, Tusk told parliament before a successful vote of confidence in his government that “in the background is the large scale coal trade beyond the eastern border", making it clear he saw Russia's hand in the affair.
Since the government has gone quiet, Tusk is moving on to take the EU's top job as president of the European Council and the ministers whose often obscenity-laced conversations were splashed across Polish papers have not found places in the government of new prime minister Ewa Kopacz.
Instead, as the investigation continues, it appears more and more likely that the scandal was not an attempt by Russia to weaken the Polish government during the height of the crisis in Ukraine.
The Polish edition of Newsweek reports this week that the probe is focussing on Marek Falenta, a businessman involved in the coal trade, and that one of his arrested co-workers is accusing him of paying for protection from Poland's counter-intelligence agency. Prosecutors also tell the magazine that waiters at the two restaurants had about 60 recordings of the country's most powerful people, some of which Falenta handed over to a Wprost journalist in order for him not to write a negative story about his coal business.
Falenta, who has taken to blogging to proclaim his innocence, insists he has done nothing wrong and calls the accusations against him “nonsense". The journalist also denies the allegation.
Still, the implication that sinister forces were involved in the recording scandal helped Tusk secure his vote of confidence and allowed the government to ride out the crisis. Now that the issue appears to be altogether more mundane, public opinion has moved on – leaving Falenta to face the music.
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