A former Deutsche Telekom AG security manager was convicted of violating privacy rules and improperly using funds for his involvement in spying on journalists and board members at the company.
The Bonn Regional Court sentenced Klaus Trzeschan to three and a half years in prison at a hearing today. Trzeschan, who was also convicted of fraud, had admitted that he participated in the corporate spying.
The case centers on allegations that managers at the company obtained phone records for journalists and supervisory board members to search for sources of news leaks. Prosecutors in June dropped probes into former Chairman Klaus Zumwinkel and ex-Chief Executive Officer Kai-Uwe Ricke.
“I wouldn’t call this a spy affair, because we’re talking about serious crimes here,” Presiding Judge Klaus Reinhoff said after delivering the verdict. “We cannot stress enough that Deutsche Telekom made it really easy for Mr. Trzeschan to commit these crimes.”
Prosecutors had sought the three and a half year sentence for Trzeschan. The defense had requested that only a fine be imposed.
“We will review the written judgment and will comment at the appropriate time,” Trzeschan’s attorney Hans-Joerg Odenthal said after the verdict.
‘Regain Lost Trust’
“Data protection is a prime issue on our agenda,” Deutsche Telekom general counsel Manfred Balz said in a statement e-mailed after the verdict. “We introduced strict data protection measures and work every day to regain lost trust.”
After confidential information about Deutsche Telekom appeared in the press in January 2005, Ricke asked the security department to find out who had leaked it. Ricke, who testified in October, said he didn’t know that illegal methods were used.
Deutsche Telekom decided journalists were their enemies, Reinhoff said. The hierarchical thinking at the company allowed the scheme to be carried out, he said.
“Deutsche Telekom usurped rights not even a judge has,” said Reinhoff. “The company took the law in its own hand.”
Trzeschan, who was leading the probe into the leak within Deutsche Telekom, hired outside firms to assist. A Berlin security company was asked to analyze data concerning about 60 people, including journalists and members of the company’s supervisory board.
“It’s disappointing that only one single suspect was convicted,” said Gerhard Baum, a lawyer for victims in the case. “He was just used as a pawn here.”
Three other men were originally charged. The case against the head of a security company was separated because of health reasons. A T-Mobile employee and another employee of Deutsche Telekom’s security section settled charges and paid 6,000 euros ($7,800) each.
Zumwinkel had declined to appear as a witness in the trial. He invoked the right not to testify in a matter that could lead to his prosecution.