How did PiS cheat the MPs? Gazeta Wyborcza daily reveals the backstage of the purchase of Pegasus
The purchase of the Pegasus system with funding from the Justice Fund was an operation that was planned precisely by the Ministry of Justice and the Anti-Corruption Bureau; it was camouflaged at every stage, writes ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ on Monday.
The following text is based on an article published by tvn24.pl on 3 January 2022.
A meeting of the parliamentary public finance committee is chaired by Jacek Sasin on 15 September 2017. The agenda has four points. The third is to give an opinion on the motion of the Minister of Justice regarding amendments to the financial plan of the Victim and Post-Penitentiary Assistance Aid Fund for 2017. These changes enabled the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau to receive PLN 25 million for the purchase of the Israeli Pegasus surveillance system,’ the newspaper writes.
‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ points out that ‘although this is precisely what it is all about, not a single word is said about it at the committee meeting’. ‘The MPs have no idea that it is about purchases for the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The motion is presented by Deputy Minister of Justice Michał Woś, one of Zbigniew Ziobro’s closest associates,’ who is responsible for the Justice Fund at the ministry. Woś explains that the principles of financing from the Fund were changed on 12 August, ‘by increasing the list of entities that can provide such assistance’. Woś states that ‘these were so far only third sector organisations’ (namely foundations, aid organisations, etc.), and now, a ‘list of institutions from the public finance sector has been added. Hence the submitted changes’.
‘He does not say that these institutions include the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, which can only be financed from the state budget. The Commission accepts the motion without any discussion or doubt. The transcript of the meeting is only eight pages long. The MPs do not know that Woś had approached the Ministry of Finance the day before in order to request permission to allocate PLN 25 million from the Fund for ‘other activities’ which are to ‘serve the prevention of crime’. Nor is the name Pegasus, or information that this is about a surveillance system (from Israel), mentioned in the motion.
The MPs are also unaware that, in July, the then prime minister, Beata Szydło, together with the heads of government of the Visegrad Group countries, met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They discussed ‘strengthening cooperation in areas such as innovation and high technology’. It was then that the decision was made to sell the licence for Pegasus to the Polish and Hungarian governments,’ reads the newspaper.
‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ writes that it arises from the documentation of the Ministry of Finance, which investigated the legality of the purchase, that the then head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Ernest Bejda, asked Ziobro’s ministry for PLN 25 million on 15 September 2017, which was the same day that Sasin’s committee passed the changes, and he then received these funds in two tranches. ‘The MoF admitted that there had been a breach of public finance discipline, but “the use of funds from the Fund [regarding their transfer to the Anti-Corruption Bureau] was purposeful and effective”. That is why, “guided by substantive and legal considerations”, it was accepted that “financial discipline was not breached to a degree greater than negligible”. No one will bear the consequences for this,’ writes the daily.
The opposition party Koalicja Obywatelska MP Michał Szczerba obtained the finance ministry’s document, and tells ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’: ‘Are we to believe that, two days after Ziobro amended the regulation, the head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau comes to him to ask him for 25 million for the purchase of special technology products? This was a classic setup. First, there was a political decision to purchase a surveillance system and then the regulation of the minister of justice was adjusted for this purpose. The MPs were misled, the objective of the increase in the financial plan of the funds was concealed from them,’ he said.
Translated and adapted by Roman Wojtasz