Anti-Corruption Bureau illegally financed, audit board says

Banaś said that during the audit, NIK was not informed about what kind of software was purchased, "hiding behind the secrecy related to the forms, means and principles of operational and reconnaissance activities". Marcin Obara/PAP

Poland's Supreme Audit Office (NIK) has found that the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau's (CBA) operations were illegally financed, NIK head told a parliamentary body probing a spyware case.

On Tuesday, a special committee appointed at the Polish Senate to investigate the alleged use of Israeli-made Pegasus software for surveillance of opposition figures in Poland, proceeded with the second day of witnesses hearing.

On Jan 3, a leading Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza wrote the government covertly purchased Pegasus for PLN 25 million (about EUR 5.5 million) for the CBA using funds from the Victims and Post-release Assistance Fund, known as the Justice Fund, subordinate to the Ministry of Justice.

Marian Banaś, NIK head, told the Senate committee that his audit office had established "the fact of illegal co-financing of the CBA's activities with the amount of PLN 25 million from the Justice Fund, which was used for the purchase, as stated in the financial documentation, of operational technical tools."

He added, however, that during the audit, NIK was not informed about what kind of software was purchased, "hiding behind the secrecy related to the forms, means and principles of operational and reconnaissance activities".

Banaś also said that he decided to "immediately initiate an urgent ad hoc audit" into state supervision over the secret services.

He added that Jarosław Kaczyński, deputy prime minister for security and defence, should be called as a witness in the case and "answer questions about the illegal and mass surveillance of Polish women and men."

In late December, 2021, the Citizen Lab Research Laboratory, a specialist IT department at the University of Toronto confirmed that the Pegasus software had been used to hack the mobile phones of some members of Poland's opposition.

Among the victims Citizen Lab has identified are Senator Krzysztof Brejza whose phone was digitally broken into multiple times when he was running the election campaign of the largest opposition bloc, Civic Platform, prosecutor Ewa Wrzosek, a critic of the government's judicial reforms, and Roman Giertych, a lawyer who has represented opposition figures.

Kaczyński, who is also the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader, has recently said that the creation and use of Pegasus was an outcome of technological change and the widespread use of encrypted communication apps, which could not be cracked by old-style surveillance methods.