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On graveyard talks and secret agencies

Corruption scandals are shaking up Poland's political elite.

Kaminski, an intense man with a long career as a single-minded anti-communist revolutionary, had been chosen for the post by former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who had made the battle against corruption a hallmark of his short and turbulent government. Kaminski was a member of parliament for Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party, and had no law enforcement experience.

Corruption had become the leading issue in Polish politics following the implosion of the ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance following a spectacular series of scandals. Kaczynski used the revulsion at the left’s behavior as a driver to create the CBA, an elite agency that would root out crime among political and business elites.

Civil libertarians warned that there were too few controls over the agency, and that Kaminski’s conspiratorial character made him a bad choice for such a sensitive post.

Despite its legal firepower, the CBA has had very few successes to its name. Its highest profile investigation was a sting operation against one of Kaczynski’s own coalition allies that backfired and ended up bringing down the Law and Justice party government. Kaminski now faces charges for the way his agents conducted that investigation.

After winning the 2007 elections, Tusk decided to leave Kaminski in place, even though he knew that the CBA chief was a political enemy. He says he wanted to ensure that members of his government would be careful to avoid any wrongdoing, knowing that Kaminski and his agents would be hunting for them.

“That was a big mistake, Kaminski has the nature of a scorpion, he’ll always attack because just the way he is,” says a former prime minister.

Now the fight over Kaminski is overshadowing the scandal within Tusk’s government. Lech Kaczynski, Poland’s president and the twin brother of the former prime minister, has become the CBA chief’s defender, insisting that Tusk has no right to fire him.

As he went, a defiant Kaminski and his allies within the agency dumped information for half-finished investigations, which accused the finance ministry, the stock exchange and the treasury ministry of impropriety.

The stakes for Lech Kaczynski and Tusk are very high. Both men are expected to run against each other in next year’s presidential elections. Kaczynski has had a very bumpy first presidential term, while Tusk has long held an overwhelming lead in opinion polls.