NEWS

Phones of PM and ministers were tapped

The mobile phones of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and many other leading Greek officials were tapped for around a year, the government revealed yesterday while admitting that it had no way of finding out who had been eavesdropping on the conversations. In a joint press conference lasting three hours, Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis, Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that some 100 cellphones had been tapped from just before the Athens Olympics in August 2004 to March of last year. «It was an unknown individual or individuals who used high technology,» said Roussopoulos, who refused to say whether the people listening in on the calls were working for foreign agencies. Apart from the mobile phone of the premier, Papaligouras and Voulgarakis also had their phones tapped, along with Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos and the navy general staff. The prime minister’s wife Natassa, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and former defense minister and current PASOK MP Yiannos Papantoniou were also monitored, according to a list released by the government. Roussopoulos said a US Embassy mobile phone was among the numbers being tapped but an embassy spokesman refused to comment on this assertion. «I do not think that our national interests were harmed,» said Roussopoulos, adding that Karamanlis had more than one phone. «Nobody can trust the Karamanlis government,» said PASOK leader George Papandreou. «The government has total political responsibility and no public relations exercise can obscure this.» The phones were using the network of Vodafone, Greece’s second-largest mobile telephony provider. Vodafane CEO Giorgos Koronias informed Papaligouras last March 10 that technicians had discovered and removed spy software which had been attached to the company’s central telephone system. The tapping was detected after customers had complained about problems with the service. The software allowed calls to and from the numbers being tapped to be monitored by other cell phones, from which conversations could be recorded. «As soon as we realized the existence of software which was tapping telephone services we removed it, as was our duty, and I immediately informed the state,» said Koronias. But the ministers said that once the software was removed, there was no way authorities could track down the exact location of the spying phones and those responsible for the operation. However, technicians found that the phones that were used to snoop on the calls were located in an area around Lycabettus Hill in central Athens, where many of the city’s embassies are located. Charges have been brought against «unknown persons» for breaching privacy of communications and a magistrate will be appointed today to conduct a judicial investigation into the matter.