Investigators probe Deutsche Telekom

DUESSELDORF, Germany --

German prosecutors have opened an investigation into the alleged monitoring of telephone records at Deutsche Telekom AG meant to trace media leaks from within the company.

Joerg Schindler, a spokesman for the prosecutors' office in Bonn, confirmed Thursday that an investigation had begun, just days after the European Union's largest telecommunications company announced an internal investigation.

Former CEO Kai-Uwe Ricke and former supervisory board chief Klaus Zumwinkel are under investigation, Schindler said.

A company official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the case is ongoing, said that offices at the firm's Bonn headquarters were searched Thursday morning. Prosecutors refused to confirm that.

On Saturday, Deutsche Telekom acknowledged that "there were cases of misuse of call records at Deutsche Telekom in 2005 and, according to latest allegations, also in 2006."

Deutsche Telekom has stressed that there is no suggestion that calls were tapped, but rather that call records detailing the time, participants and duration of calls were improperly monitored.

Telekom has said that it investigated an individual case last summer, which led to a restructuring of its security department.

It said that on April 28, its management board received "new, broader and more serious allegations" from "an external party who had apparently been involved in the incidents and who had been commissioned by a member of the group security department." It was the company that called in prosecutors in mid-May.

The German Finance Ministry this week welcomed the internal investigation and reiterated its confidence in CEO Rene Obermann, who took over the top job in late 2006.

The government holds a 14.8 percent stake in Deutsche Telekom, a former state-owned monopoly, and an indirect stake of another 16.9 percent through the state-owned KfW bank.

Schindler said Obermann is not under investigation and Deutsche Telekom said no other current executive has been targeted.

Ricke was chief executive at the time of the alleged offenses.

The daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted Ricke as saying that "at no point did I order a comparison of telephone data," and that he was never informed of the results of any such action - although he did ask the company's security chief to find the source of leaks.

Deutsche Telekom's supervisory board chief, Ulrich Lehner, on Thursday underlined the board's support for Obermann.

"We are interested in full transparency and a full clearing-up," Lehner said.

The allegations are reminiscent of revelations in 2006 by Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard Co. that it had secretly examined the private telephone logs of journalists, board members and HP employees in a bid to identify the source of leaks to the media.

Deutsche Telekom shares rose 0.2 percent to 10.74 euros ($16.84).

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Associated Press writer Joachim Sondermann contributed to this report.


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