More Towergate tapes revealed

On Tuesday the Polish opposition liberal daily “Gazeta Wyborcza” published details of a conversation between the Austrian developer behind the “Two Towers” project and a close associate of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jarosław Kaczyński. The developer offers the close associate of Mr Kaczyński some form of gratification for help with the project but the offer is rejected.

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New tape

The newspaper published details of conversations held between the Austrian developer and Mr Kazimierz Kujda, a close associate of Mr Kaczyński. The meetings are reported to have taken place in the offices of the National Environment Protection Fund (NFOŚ), a state body, in June of last year. The developer wanted to meet with Mr Kujda because of Mr Kujda’s past involvement with the company that owned the land and the fact that the wife of Mr Kujda was now a member of the Board of that company, on which she had replaced her husband.

Mr Kujda, who heads the NFOŚ, promised the Austrian developer support with progressing the project. In response the Austrian developer asks if Mr Kujda wanted anything in return. Mr Kujda responds that there is no need as he is “well off by Polish standards” but he wants to help the project anyway.

The details of the conversation published by the Polish daily indicate that the two men had known each other for several years and that the project was not a new one. Mr Kujda says that with regard to any project relating to the company that owned the land in Warsaw, on which the two towers were to be built, the final decisions would have to be taken by Mr Kaczyński.

Mr Kujda believes that the project is important to Mr Kaczyński as it provides an opportunity to create a Congress Centre in the name of the tragically deceased President Lech kaczyński who perished in the Smolensk air disaster in 2010.

What lies beneath?

It looks as if there will be more tapes published by the newspaper soon. It is almost certain that the tapes were recorded by the developer and that they are now being used to discredit Mr Kaczyński and to help in the Austrian’s financial claim which he has decided to pursue through the courts.

It is clear that Mr Kaczyński has a group of close associates whom he trusts to follow his wishes. The company which owns the land was formed by a foundation which originally acquired the land in a tender in the early 1990s. The land and other assets which the company manages was previously the property of a publicly owned newspaper.

In the early 1990s, the ownership of several previously publicly owned newspapers was transferred to private entities. A little later a government decision was taken that the assets were also to be transferred to the owners. All these decisions were taken in full accordance with the provisions of the law.

Since the early nineties, political parties have been funded from the state budget. However back in the early nineties, there were no such provisions and all parties had to seek sponsors or to have their own sources of income.

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Lines of attack and counter-attack

Mr Kaczyński is being accused by “Gazeta Wyborcza” and the opposition of circumventing the law on party financing that forbids political parties from commercial activity. He is being portrayed as the effective owner of a company and not revealing that ownership in the declaration of MPs interests, in addition to using his position of influence to advance a credit application.

In reality, the project was scrapped, the credit agreement was never activated and the dispute is over the payment of the Austrian developer for his services. Mr Kaczyński has threatened to take action under civil law against the paper and the opposition for having claimed that he broke the law.

Last week “Gazeta Wyborcza” had to issue an apology of having wrongly claimed that Mr Kaczyński was “a suspect” as that is terminology for someone who is under investigation and facing charges. No such charges have been filed and the investigation into the newspaper’s and the opposition’s allegations has not even begun.

Image problem

Mr Kaczyński will not welcome these revelations as they paint him as a man who has financial clout as well as political power. They show his family indulging in a business project that they would obviously profit from and Mr Kaczyński controlling a company which manages a considerable array of assets including prime location real estate.

Towergate: a threat to ruling party leader’s image

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“Towergate” affair

The so-called “Towergate” affair began with the publication of tapes of a conversation that took place on July 27, 2018. Details of the conversations were published last Monday by “Gazeta Wyborcza”. They concern the attempt to build a 190 m high office building on a plot of land owned by a company run by associates of Mr Kaczyński.

The meeting was attended by the PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński and Gerald Birgfellner, a real-estate developer who is married to Mr Kaczyński's niece. The parties were trying to find a solution which would have enabled the Austrian to receive payment (EUR 1.3 million) for work which had already been done on the project.

Mr Kaczyński, in the taped conversation, says that the project cannot go ahead for political reasons as it would look bad if it could be claimed that the ruling party was building two huge and highly profitable tower blocks in the middle of Warsaw and that it was not possible to obtain planning permission for the investment from the liberal opposition run Warsaw city authorities. He tells the Austrian developer that for payment for the preparatory work which has been done invoices or court order will be required so that the payments can be made legally and above board.

“Gazeta Wyborcza” alleges that Mr Kaczyński had earlier met with both Mr Birgfellner and the CEO of the state-owned bank Pekao SA in order to advance the Austrian developer’s quest for credit to fund the preparatory and construction work. Although a credit application was made and an initial, smaller than asked for, credit was granted it was never drawn upon as the company which owned the land withdrew from the project.