April 24, 2012

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Case on Suspicious Death of Vodafone Employee Associated to Greek Wire-tapping Scandal Re-opens

A prose4cutor is getting set to open the scandalous wire-tapping issue and the suspicious death of a Vodafone software engineer who was reported to have hung himself because he did not want to be implicated in this controversy. More exactly, first instance prosecutor Haralambos Lakafosis is going to reopen the case into the death of 39-year-old Costas Tsalikidis, several months after experts suggested that he may have been murdered.

In 2006 a court ruled that the deceased committed suicide in March 2005 because he suposedely helped hack the phone of then-Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and more than 100 other officials, however the family of Tsalikidis and their legal team have challenged this version of events.

In 2011, Theodoros Vougiouklakis and Steven Karch raised doubts in their reports about the initial autopsy. In fact Karch had said that “the most likely scenario” is that Tsalikidis “was sedated and/or poisoned and later hung after death.

On Sunday, August 28, 2011 hellasfrappe had written an article on this titled "Greek Watergate Scandal- US Embassy behind phone-tapping of Karamanlis". In this story we quoted an article that had appeared in a Sunday edition of Kathimerini claiming that the US Embassy in Athens was behind the wire-tapping against the former prime minister. The article noted that four of a total of fourteen mobile phones used by Karamanlis and his associates were purchased in the name of the US embassy.  Apart from the former prime minister, the commander of the Greek Secret Services (EYP), the head of the Greek police, several ministers and dozens of civilians were also apparently being monitored from an illegal software which was installed on these phones and which belonged to the Vodafone company in Greece. (Read full article here)

In the article we featured a timeline of events before Tsalikidis’ death. Certainly if one goes through the information date by date then it is obvious that there is something "smelly" here.

The source of the timeline is from Wikipedia which was quoting all the reports at the time.
  • March 4, 2005 Vodafone discovers (as per company statements) foreign “interception” software in its network. Vodafone Greece doesn’t formally take the position that Ericsson installed before the Olympic games a “legal interception” software, which was subsequently locked and shut down.
  • March 5, 2005 - Vodafone decides to remove the foreign interception software without finding the culprits of the wire tapping. Thus, according to many experts the culprits can no longer be traced. Mr. Koronias, CEO of Vodafone Greece, claimed before the Parliamentary Committee on Transparency, no one had asked him to reactivate the illegal software in order to trace the phones that intercepted the conversations in question. The company claims that they have back up copies of the deleted data and that they committed no illegal act within the boundaries of the Act for the Protection of the Privacy of Telecommunications.
  • March 9, 2005 - Costantinos Tsalikidis, Network Planning Supervisor for Vodafone and top level manager for the company, is found dead in his apartment from in what looked like a suicide hanging. He never left a (suicide) note nor any indication that he was suffering from any personal problems. No autopsy was conducted and the forensic report was inconclusive. The circumstances surrounding the death of Tsalikidis, were characterized as questionable just one year later and directly connected to his professional position at Vodafone, so the Athens Prosecution re-opened the case. Vodafone Greece never sent a condolence telegraph to the deceased’s family, regardless of the fact that Mr. Tsalikidis worked at Vodafone for over a decade.
  • March 10, 2005 - The CEO of Vodafone Greece, Mr. Koronias, briefs the Prime Minister of Greece in the presence of a Prosecutor about the wire tapping. Among the phones that were tapped was that of the Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis as well as all the ministers of the current government, members of the Parliamentary opposition, as well as other non-parliamentary officials. He also mentions the "suicide" without however connecting it to the wire tapping incident. The following year however, in the context of the legal proceedings that began on February 8, 2006, Mr. Koronias claimed that he had the complete approval of the government, especially Karamanlis himself, for his actions. The matter was deemed one of top national security and top secret by the government. The question at hand is why the Greek Authority for the Assurance of Information and Communication Privacy was not informed and why regular legal procedures were not followed before deactivating the software.
  • March 11, 2005 - The Prosecutor for the Supreme Court, Mr. Linos gives a direct order to the Head Prosecutor in person so that an urgent and preliminary investigation be made far from public scrutiny. The order did not have any mention of a "suicide". The question at hand focused on the findings from the 11-month investigation (which began on March 11, 2005 and is still ongoing) and why the case seems to be re-examined from scratch.
  • June 11, 2005 - The local police precinct that investigated the death of Tsalikidis, closes the case on the suicide and sends the files to the Prosecutor’s office. According to the police, no evidence of a break-in was found, therefore, they did not see the need to conduct an autopsy nor to take fingerprints. Vodafone Greece did not hand over any personal data from Tsalikidis' personal computer to his family or to authorities, which would have greatly assisted the investigation.
  • January 30, 2006 - The Head Prosecutor, Mr. Papangelopoulos, claims to have been informed about the suicide case from the Major General, who mentioned the suicide outside of the court proceedings. A year later Vodafone Greece remained silent on the type of internal investigation that took place, on whether suspects were located and what type of sanctions were imposed on them relating to what is possibly one of the smelliest political scandals in the modern history of Greece.
  • February 1, 2006 - The preliminary investigation conducted by Mr. Papangelopoulos regarding the wire tapping is concluded with a statement claiming that he was waiting for evidence from state authorities.
  • February 2, 2006 - Criminal charges are filed against unknown perpetrators for wire tapping. On the same day, three ministers make statements to the press where they congratulate Mr. Koronias for his stance to erase the software program. The next day the press characterizes the handling of this case as a huge political and communication blunder.
  • February 3, 2006 - The press widely believes that the wire tapping case is related to the suicide of Tsalikidis. This is first page news in all the press and mass media of the country for the next two weeks. Countless news programs are assuming that the suicide of Tsalikidis may not have been a suicide.
  • February 8, 2006 - The investigation of Tsalikidis’ death is handed over to the highly experienced Prosecutor, Mr. Diotis. For the first time in a year since the death of Tsalikidis an investigation of his apartment is conducted. The results have not been made public yet.
  • March 9, 2006 - The day of the anniversary of Tsalikidis’ death, Mr. Koronias is cross-examined by the Parliamentary Committee on Institutions and Transparency. He stated that he did not order or receive the «lawful interception» software program. He also said that as the producer of the software, Ericsson was responsible since they had fully trained personnel on the functioning of the software program. Mr. Koronias stated that Vodafone has a very technologically elaborate security system and that it was because of his diligence that the incident was considered to be of «national security.» Parliament also suppoenaed the head of Ericsson to appear in a future hearing. With regard to the death of Tsalikidis, Mr. Koronias said that he mentioned the «suicide» to the ministers that he met with in March 2005 and that Vodafone was assisting authorities in any way possible with their investigation. The question here is whether an internal investigation file exists on Tsalikidis, and if so why the family members have never been informed of its findings.

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