Polish waiters, businessman sentenced in restaurant wiretaps

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Polish court handed a prison sentence Thursday to a businessman convicted in the illegal wiretapping of top Polish politicians in expensive Warsaw restaurants.

The court sentenced Marek Falenta, the businessman convicted of masterminding the wiretapping, to 2½ years in prison and gave suspended sentences to two waiters who secretly recorded the leaders' private conversations. A third waiter was ordered to pay 50,000 zlotys ($12,000) to charity.

The release of the restaurant recordings sparked a political scandal in 2014 that contributed to the loss of power last year of Civic Platform, the centrist party that had governed Poland for eight years.

The recordings caught top members of the government of former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, now the head of the European Council, using crude language and making rough assessments of foreign allies. The scandal led to the resignation of several senior officials, including Radek Sikorski, a former foreign minister and speaker of the Poland Parliament.

Sikorski, at the time the foreign minister, and others were secretly taped during private meetings in Warsaw restaurants in 2013 and 2014. The recordings were leaked to a weekly magazine that published transcripts.

In one exchange, Sikorski was heard using vulgar language to describe Poland's relationship with the United States, making the point that Poland had been too subservient to Washington.

The former head of the central bank, Marek Belka, also was heard saying he could take steps to help boost the nation's economy ahead of the pending elections, which, seemed to violate the principle that the bank remain independent from politics. At the same time, he suggested to the interior minister that the finance minister be replaced — something that later happened.

Poles were angered that politicians, lobbyists and business people were debating political stratagems and deals while dining on lobster paid for with taxpayers' money.

The incident also put the spotlight on the country's security forces, which were criticized for failing to protect top officials from being spied on and wiretapped.

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