Defendant incriminates Deutsche Telekom boss in illegal search

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.

Defendant incriminates Deutsche Telekom boss in illegal search
Ricke (left) and Zumwinkel. Photo: DPA

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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French court hands Amazon €90,000-per-day fine over contracts

French authorities on Wednesday slapped a €90,000-per-day fine on e-commerce giant Amazon until it removes abusive clauses in its contracts with businesses using its platform to sell their goods.

French court hands Amazon €90,000-per-day fine over contracts

The anti-fraud Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) service said the online sales giant’s contracts with third-party sellers who use its website contain “unbalanced” clauses.

“The company Amazon Services Europe did not comply completely with an injunction it was served and it is now subject to a fine of €90,000 per day of delay” in applying the changes, the DGCCRF said in a statement.

It also urged the platform to conform with European rules on equity and transparency for firms using online platforms.

Amazon said the order would harm consumers.

“The changes imposed by the DGCCRF will stop us from effectively protecting consumers and permit bad actors to set excessive prices or spam our clients with commercial offers,” the e-commerce giant said in a statement.

“We will comply with the DGCCRF’s decision but we absolutely do not understand it and we are challenging it in court,” responded the e-commerce giant in a statement.

Amazon said the clauses that the DGCCRF has ordered removed had, for example “prevented the appearance of exorbitant prices for mask and hydroalcoholic gel during the pandemic”.

In 2019, Amazon was fined €4 million for “manifestly unbalanced” contract clauses with third-party sellers on its site in a case brought by the DGCCRF.