* Magazine releases tape it says is of governor Marek Belka
* Belka "wanted minister out in return for helping gov't":
* Polish PM says tape is an "unfortunate business"
* Central bank does not reply to calls seeking comment
(Adds reaction in paragraphs 16-20)
By Marcin Goettig and Pawel Sobczak
WARSAW, June 14 A Polish magazine said on
Saturday it had a recording of a private conversation in which
the central bank chief told a minister the bank would be willing
to help rescue the government from economic troubles on
condition the finance minister was removed.
The weekly Wprost news magazine said it had a recording of a
meeting in a Warsaw restaurant last July between central bank
governor Marek Belka and Interior Minister Bartlomiej
Sienkiewicz. It did not say who recorded their conversation, or
how it had obtained the recording.
According to extracts of the audio recording posted on the
Internet by the magazine, which have been heard by Reuters
reporters, and were also emailed to Reuters by Wprost in
transcript form, the minister sets out a possible future
scenario in which the government could not meet its financial
commitments and faced election defeat.
The man identified in the transcript as Sienkiewicz refers
in vague terms to monetary policy action carried out elsewhere
in Europe - an apparent reference to central bank stimulus.
"Is that precisely the moment for launching this sort of
solution, or not?" Sienkiewicz asks Belka.
Belka replies, according to the transcript: "My condition
would be the removal of the finance minister."
The finance minister at the time, Jacek Rostowski, was
removed last November as part of a cabinet reshuffle.
Repeated calls by Reuters to the mobile telephone number of
a central bank spokesman and the interior ministry's press
office went unanswered. The government's press office did not
pick up calls seeking comment.
It is unclear if Rostowski's departure was in any way
connected to the exchange between Belka and Sienkiewicz. Reuters
was not immediately able to reach him for comment on Saturday.
Tusk said at the time the changes were to inject new energy
into the government, and Rostowski did not publicly object to
The magazine published a summary of what it said was the
conversation between Belka and Sienkiewicz on its website. It
said it would publish more details in its next edition on
In the recording, the person who sounds like Belka can be
heard, between the clanking of plates, using an expletive to
describe the central bank's Monetary Policy Council, responsible
for setting interest rates.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Twitter he would comment
on the magazine's report on Monday.
"Unfortunate business. I don't underestimate it. I will
comment on that publicly on Monday at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) during a
news conference," he said.
Poland's central bank is required to be independent of the
government, according to a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal
Two sources in Tusk's Civic Platform party, who did not want
to be identified because they were discussing internal party
business, said they expected changes in the Cabinet as a
consequence of the publication of the recording.
"The context of the whole discussion is awful and puts both
gentlemen in a very bad light," one of the party sources said
about Belka and Sienkiewicz.
A source close to the central bank said that with a few
incautious sentences Belka put at risk what up to now had been
an impeccable reputation. "He will have to work incredibly hard
to keep it," said the source.
Jaroslaw Gowin, who quit his post as justice minister in
Tusk's government last year and is now in opposition, said in a
Twitter post on Saturday in reference to the Wprost report that
Belka and Sienkiewicz should be dismissed. He did not give a
But Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski said the
recording should be treated with caution. "Polish politics is
awash with rumours and insinuation," he said.
It was not possible to establish from the excerpts whether
Belka and Sienkiewicz were talking informally or in serious
discussion of the outlines of a potential deal. It is also not
known if Belka espoused different views in other parts of the
Poland suffered a sharp economic slowdown last year. The
government was forced to revise its budget after forecasts for
budget revenue proved over-optimistic. Since then, the public
finances have improved and the economy is back to robust growth.
The central bank governor is nominated by the president and
confirmed by parliament.
The law allows for the removal of the governor only in the
event of incapacity, a criminal conviction, or a ruling by the
state tribunal that the incumbent cannot hold an official post.
(Additional reporting by Marcin Goclowski, Pawel Florkiewicz
and Adrian Krajewski; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by
Sonya Hepinstall and Eric Walsh)