Defendant incriminates Deutsche Telekom boss in illegal search

Defendant incriminates Deutsche Telekom boss in illegal search
Ricke (left) and Zumwinkel. Photo: DPA
The Deutsche Telekom spying trial took a dramatic turn on its opening day Friday when the main accused, Klaus Trzeschan, made a partial admission and incriminated the company’s then boss Kai-Uwe Ricke.

Trzeschan, the former head of company security, told a court in Bonn that the gathering of phone records had been carried out “without judicial decree” and had been “a big mistake.”

He and two fellow defendants, also former Telekom staff, are charged with having illegally collected the phone records of about 60 people, including unionists, journalists and members of Deutsche Telekom’s own supervisory board.

According the state prosecutor, Trzeschan and the other defendants carried out the illegal collection in an effort to find the source of a leak, after sensitive information about the company’s strategy appeared in a magazine article.

The former department head also said he was acting on the orders of then chief executive officer Kai-Uwe Ricke, who believed that the leak originated from Deutsche Telekom’s own supervisory board.

Ricke had at the start of 2005 asked Trzeschan to his office and had been “very angry” about the article, Trzeschan said. Ricke had insisted on staying out of the department of corporate communications, Trzeschan said.

In a statement read by his lawyer, Trzeschan went on to say that “circumstances of the data collection” were known to Ricke as well as then chairman Klaus Zumwinkel “in September 2005 at the latest.”

Neither the bosses nor lawyers consulted had cast doubt on the “legality of the data collection,” he said.

Authorities also searched the homes of Ricke and Zumwinkel 10 months after the scandal broke but prosecutors eventually dropped their investigation of the men, saying they could not prove the two knew about the phone record reviews at the time they took place. Ricke and Zumwinkel have denied any wrongdoing.

However, should the current trial throw up fresh evidence against Ricke and Zumwinkel, state prosecutors could reopen the investigation. Both are due to testify on October 6.

The defendants are accused of breaches of federal data protection laws.The trial will continue next Friday.

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