Klaus Trzeschan, the former security chief of Deutsche Telekom, has given testimony that puts further pressure on the former management of Deutsche Telekom in a growing snooping scandal that has shaken public faith in the integrity of one of Germany's premier blue-chip companies.
According to information obtained by DER SPIEGEL magazine, Trzeschan told an internal probe by the company that he had received instructions from former CEO Kai-Uwe Ricke and former supervisory board chairman Klaus Zumwinkel to investigate the source of leaks of company information.
However, he added that neither of them was informed of the precise way in which those leaks were being pursued. According to SPIEGEL, part of the money paid to the Berlin-based consultancy firm conducting the snooping operation was transferred in late 2006 from a Telekom cost center over which Zumwinkel and the current CEO, Rene Obermann, had control. The transfer appears to have been signed off by the joint office head of the two managers.
Asked to comment, Obermann told SPIEGEL: "I never saw the invoice." A spokesman for Zumwinkel said: "A supervisory board chairman has no authorization for corporate accounts."
Public prosecutors launched an investigation last week following allegations that Telekom systematically spied on management- level employees, supervisory board members and journalists from 2005 to 2006 to trace the source of leaks of information to financial journalists.
The snooping allegedly took the form of analyzing telephone connection data, and was outsourced to a Berlin-based consultancy firm.
The scandal spread last week with further allegations that Telekom was snooping on journalists as far back as 2000. SPIEGEL has information that the company tracked journalists' movements using mobile phone data and that it might have hired ex-Stasi agents to help.
The scandal has triggered a political debate about data protection. Hans-Peter Uhl, a member of parliament for the conservative Christian Social Union, called for tough new legislation.
Uhl told SPIEGEL that all companies that abused the data of their customers should in future suffer the "maximum conceivable penalty". He said he planned legislation that would force "perpetrator companies" to make their abuse public and to inform the victims of their actions.
He said this enforced transparency would have "the same kind of deterrent effect as the medieval pillory once had".
However, other conservatives are opposed to tougher legislation. They include Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who said he would meet Telekom and other companies in the industry in Berlin on Monday to discuss how to respond to the scandal.
"People must be able to be confident that data security is given the highest priority in companies," Schäuble told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.