Berlin urges Telekom to disclose how snoopers got phone data

BerlinĀ  - The German government urged phones giant Deutsche Telekom on Monday to quickly disclose how private investigators obtained confidential billing records while trying to trace leaks.

Two days after Telekom published first details of the scandal, prosecutors in the western city of Bonn were still reading the dossier compiled by Telekom, according to their spokesman Fred Apostel.

Torsten Albig, a spokesman for the German Finance Ministry which controls one third of Telekom shares, said the government had full confidence in the company's chief executive Rene Obermann, who had called the government to brief it on the scandal.

"If these allegations prove true, a great deal of trust will have been lost and this must be quickly investigated," he said.

A Telekom spokesman said, "We are actively cooperating in completing the picture." Telekom is the company behind T-Mobile wireless phone services in several nations.

The German Business Ethics Council said the revelation of the 2005 rule breach might hurt business, creating the impression among customers that Telekom had no scruples about misusing its databanks which record the times, durations and numbers of every call.

Germany treats telephone billing records as almost sacrosanct after experiencing routine phone tapping, first under the Gestapo and then under the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany.

Telekom has stressed that it has no knowledge of its internal security team or outside investigators actually tapping calls.

It said the investigators had been ordered to trace leaks, and had their own idea of trying to discover if any Telekom director frequently telephoned reporters covering the company's affairs.

Around 2005, the media repeatedly reported top-secret reviews at Telekom about how to end its over-manning problem.

Labour leaders with board seats have voiced outrage at suggestions that they might have breached boardroom confidentiality rules. So far Telekom has not identified who was under suspicion.

Illegal snooping to plug similar boardroom leaks led to a scandal in 2006 at Hewlett-Packard of the United States. The company paid a substantial sum of money to settle claims against it. (dpa)

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