Intelligence chief quits over wiretapping ‘oversights,’ as close aide to PM steps down

Intelligence chief quits over wiretapping ‘oversights,’ as close aide to PM steps down

The head of Greece’s National Intelligence Service (EYP) stepped down on Friday, citing “oversights in the process of statutory inspections” in his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Panagiotis Kontoleon had submitted his resignation “following mistaken actions found during lawful wiretapping procedures,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Under Greek law, a prosecutor is required to sign off on any surveillance.

Kontoleon, who was appointed to the post in August 2019, will be replaced by Foreign Ministry Secretary General Themistoklis Demiris. Demiris is expected to brief Parliament’s ethics and transparency committee on these developments after the summer recess.

Earlier this week, two lawmakers who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said that Kontoleon had admitted during a parliamentary committee on July 29 that his service had spied on Thanasis Koukakis, a financial journalist who works for CNN Greece.

That closed-door hearing was called after the leader of the socialist opposition PASOK party, Nikos Androulakis, lodged a complaint with top court prosecutors over an attempted bugging of his mobile phone with Predator spyware.

Androulakis, who is also a member of the European Parliament, said he became aware of the attempt after being informed by the European Parliament’s cyber security service a few days before he filed his complaint on July 26.

Kontoleon’ resignation came as a close aid to Mitsotakis, Grigoris Dimitriadis, also stepped down.

Dimitriadis was secretary general of the prime minister’s office. EYP reports to the prime minister’s office.

According to an announcement, he resigned because of the “toxic climate formed about his person.”

Dimitriadis will be replaced by Ioannis Bratakos, until now president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EVEA).

Government sources also refuted speculation that his resignation may be linked to recent revelations about an attempt to install spyware on the telephone of Androulakis before he became the head of PASOK and was a member of European Parliament.

“Neither he nor the government have any involvement” in the issue, they said.

The government says authorities do not use the spyware allegedly deployed in the hacking of Koukakis and do not do business with companies selling it.

In April, Koukakis said he had been notified by digital rights group Citizen Lab that his phone had been the target of surveillance by Predator software from July to September 2021. The Committee to Protect Journalists had called for a “swift and thorough investigation … (to) determine who orchestrated that monitoring, and hold them to account.”

A prosecutor began an investigation on foot of the allegation. [Kathimerini, Reuters, AP]

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