Former Deutsche Telekom AG Chairman Klaus Zumwinkel and former Chief Executive Officer Kai-Uwe Ricke won’t be charged in a probe over spying on journalists and board members at Europe’s largest phone company.
Prosecutors in Bonn don’t have enough evidence to prove Ricke and Zumwinkel’s knew about reviews of phone data at Deutsche Telekom at the time they took place, Friedrich Apostel, a spokesman for prosecutors, said today. Charges will be filed against four people, including a former security manager at Deutsche Telekom and the head of a private security company.
“People will say that we are hanging the small guys here and allowing the big ones to go free,” said Apostel. “That’s totally inappropriate. The law requires us for good reason to exactly prove any allegation or drop the case.”
Prosecutors have been looking into allegations that Deutsche Telekom hired a company to study phone records of journalists, executives and supervisory board members to find the sources of news leaks. Prosecutors searched offices of Deutsche Telekom and its T-Mobile unit in May 2008. The homes of Ricke and Zumwinkel were raided 10 months later.
The decision to drop the case is “delightful,” Zumwinkel said in a statement. The decision was expected, Ricke said in a separate statement. He said he never knew that illicit methods were used and he never asked anyone to employ such methods.
‘Accept the Decision’
Deutsche Telekom, which is seeking damages of 1 million euros ($1.2 million) each from Ricke and Zumwinkel, “has to accept the decision,” said Mark Nierwetberg, a spokesman for the Bonn-based company.
Prosecutors charged the former security manager and two other Deutsche Telekom employees as well as the head of a private security company with violations of data protection and telecommunications secrecy laws. The former security manager was also charged with breach of trust. The head of the private security company was also charged with extortion, said Apostel.
Apostel declined to give the names of the defendants.
After confidential information appeared in the press in January 2005, Ricke, then CEO, asked the security manager to find out who had leaked it. Phone data was collected with the help of two employees, who were also charged, Apostel said.
A Berlin-based security company was asked to analyze the data of about 60 people, including journalists and members of Deutsche Telekom’s supervisory board, he said.
Prosecutors didn’t find enough evidence to prove Ricke and Zumwinkel knew that illegal methods were used, said Apostel. While documents show both were informed on Oct. 31, 2005, about the actions, there are no indications they knew the wrongdoing was continuing. In their view, the actions had already stopped, said Apostel.
Reinhard Kowalewsky, one of the journalists who was spied on, said he may appeal today’s decision.