* PM says secret tapes are a plot to destabilise Poland
* Taped remarks have embarrassed the government
* Security experts say easy to bug private conversations
* Officials 'should be more careful where they talk'
(Recasts with Polish PM, security experts)
By Anna Koper and Christian Lowe
WARSAW, June 23 Poland's prime minister on
Monday said the secret recording of officials discussing affairs
of state over restaurant meals was a plot to cripple the Polish
state at a time when it is rallying European opposition to
Russia's intervention in Ukraine.
But former security officers say the origin of the affair is
probably more prosaic: someone saw an opportunity for commercial
gain from recording the conversations, and exploited the fact
that Poland's elite are lax about security when they go out for
The recordings, which were made over several months at two
high-end Warsaw restaurants and which have been published in
weekly news magazine Wprost, have included exchanges
embarrassing for the government.
The owner of one of the restaurants said he was unaware of
any illegal activities in the restaurant. The second restaurant,
where according to the magazine's staff conversations were
recorded, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
In one exchange, according to the magazine, the foreign
minister described U.S.-Polish ties as worthless, in another the
central bank chief and the interior minister discussed ways the
bank could help the government avoid electoral defeat.
The government has said that the remarks of the officials
who were secretly recorded were taken out of context, and that
they had not broken the law.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Monday connected the illegal
eavesdropping to Poland's role over neighbouring Ukraine, where
it fiercely opposes Russian intervention, and to Warsaw's
growing weight inside the European Union.
"There is no doubt that the bugging operation destabilises
and reduces the capability of the Polish state," he told a news
conference. "The aim is not to diminish the reputation of the
ruling party, but of the state, at a critical moment in Europe
and for the situation in Ukraine."
Last week, Tusk described the tapes affair as an attempted
coup d'etat. Marek Opiola, a member of parliament with the
opposition Law and Justice Party said that sort of talk was a
political ruse by the ruling party.
"(The party) is trying in this way to distract attention
away from its own incompetence and the scandalous contents of
the conversations between its own senior representatives," he
Poland's zloty currency fell last week on market worries
that Tusk might be forced by the fallout from the recordings to
call an early election, or at least fire some ministers.
This prospect receded on Monday. Tusk said he would not be
forced by the illegal surveillance into changing his Cabinet,
and most analysts said no single bloc in parliament had enough
votes to force a snap election.
Attention in Poland has turned to who could have carried out
illegal surveillance on such a scale: the recordings captured on
tape more than a dozen officials, politicians and company bosses
in several different meetings.
Wprost magazine has said it obtained the recordings from "a
businessman," without giving any details.
Prosecutors say they detained one person on suspicion of
illegal surveillance at a restaurant but later released him and
did not file charges with a court, the next stage in a
prosecution. Reuters was not able to contact the man for
comment, or to establish the name of his lawyer representing.
Jerzy Dziewulski, a former presidential security adviser who
now runs a private security consultancy, said the bugging was
too primitive to be the work of any nation's intelligence
"I am deeply convinced that this is the private activity of
some person who saw and knew that VIPs met there, that they
talked loudly, from time to time he might have heard those
conversations, and decided to profit from that."
He said that bugging equipment could easily be bought and
was not expensive. A device smaller than a matchbox could be
hidden near the restaurant table, and via a SIM card inside the
device, transmit the sound to a mobile phone.
He said if the device was sound-activated, it could operate
for over a week before the battery ran out.
(Additional reporting by Pawel Sobczak, Adrian Krajewski and
Magdalena Kolodziej; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by