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CRIME

Investigators raid Deutsche Telekom in spy probe

Prosecutors raided Deutsche Telekom's headquarters on Thursday in a probe into an escalating scandal that has seen Europe's biggest phone company confess to spying on journalists.

Investigators raid Deutsche Telekom in spy probe
Photo: DPA

“Since this morning there have been investigative procedures” at the Deutsche Telekom offices, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Bonn said.

Deutsche Telekom was forced to concede at the weekend that it had hired an outside firm to track hundreds of thousands of phone calls by senior executives and journalists to identify the sources of press leaks.

The Bonn-based company said the “ill-advised use of communications data” happened in 2005 and probably 2006 and has to date conceded only to spying on the magazine Capital. But on Thursday the Financial Times Deutschland alleged that it became a

victim of espionage by Deutsche Telekom several years earlier.

The daily alleged in a front-page report that Deutsche Telekom had hired private detectives to spy on its reporters in 2000 and had even secretly filmed the newsroom.

“Their main target was the FTD’s chief reporter at the time, Tasso Enzweiler, who often broke stories about the telecommunication sector. “The private detectives even used a hidden camera to try and get information about Enzweiler’s source from the news room in Cologne,” the newspaper said.

Both the FTD and Capital belong to the publishing house Gruner und Jahr, which is turn is owned by German media giant Bertelsmann. The publisher has warned that it is considering both criminal and civil charges against Deutsche Telekom.

The telecoms giant insists that the Berlin consultancy firm it hired had not listened to journalists’ conversations, but only logged details on who phoned whom as well as the time and duration of the calls. But the scandal is proving deeply damaging in a country already nervous about “Big Brother” style privacy invasion and chief executive Rene Obermann has embarked on a damage control campaign.

Obermann, who was not in charge at the time of the spying, announced that state prosecutors and a law firm in Cologne were investigating the affair and promised Deutsche Telekom users that they were not being wiretapped.

The “personal data of our millions of fixed-line and mobile clients was secure,” he told Germany’s top-selling newspaper Bild.

So far it is not clear who at Deutsche Telekom ordered or approved the decision to send private detectives into news rooms, the FTD said on Thursday. “It is not clear to what extent the company’s security section may have acted on its own,” the newspaper said.

It is the latest in a string of privacy invasion scandals to a hit a major German company.

Earlier this year it emerged that discount food retailer Lidl had hired detectives to install micro cameras that filmed employees while at work and on their breaks. Lidl recorded employees when they used the toilet, their conversations while on break and kept track of who their friends outside work were, reports said.

CRIME

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners

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