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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.

GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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