Investigation into opposition politicians using public money to fund smear campaign

Poland’s Central Anticorruption Bureau (CBA) searched through nearly 30 locations on Wednesday as part of the “invoice scandal” investigation that involves Inowrocław City Hall allegedly paying for invoices issued by fake legal entities, and buying information and telecommunication technology (ICT) equipment used to execute a political smear campaign against selected politicians.

According to testimonies revealed by Poland’s public broadcaster TVP the money stated in the invoices was used to issue under-the-table payments to people who were asked to attack politicians indicated by Inowrocław mayor Ryszard Brejza and his son – the main opposition Civic Platform (PO) party MP – Krzysztof Brejza.

Public money from the City Hall treasury was used to pay the hired trolls with average pay possibly amounting to PLN 500 (EUR 114) as testified by a witness. Evidence and documents acquired to date suggest that at least PLN 250,000 (EUR 57,000) of public money was defrauded. According to TVP which reported the story, the amount may still rise.

The public money was reportedly also used to purchase ICT equipment to serve as tools for the hired individuals to perpetuate the smear campaign. According to TVP, the investigation revealed that MP Brejza was among the users of this ICT equipment, including laptops fitted with Tor – free and open-source software for enabling anonymous communication. Using Tor makes it more difficult to trace the Internet activity of the user: this includes "visits to Websites, online posts, instant messages, and other forms of communication".

Some testimonies showed that faking online political support surveys played a role in the Brejza political agenda. The investigation found that public money was also used to charge private cellular phones.

The fraudulent activities within Inowrocław City Hall were carried out within the structure of its Culture, Promotion and Civil Communication Department established immediately after Ryszard Brejza’s victory in the 2014 local elections. The department is responsible directly to the city mayor Ryszard Brejza. The idea of this immediate form of accountability was given by the mayor’s son Krzysztof Brejza who also had the final say with regard to who would be employed at the department, TVP reported.