Greece admits defeat against Olympic phone-tapping spies

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 23 January 2008

It sometimes seems that, rather like the funding mechanisms of the British Labour Party, politics in Greece simply lurches from one scandalous crisis to the next. Before Zahopoulos there were the accusations by the government that the opposition party was deliberately starting the devastating summer forest fires, and before that there was the bond sales saga. Way back when I first arrived in Greece, it was the Vodafone phone-tapping issue that was top of the scandal agenda.

Whilst the Zahopoulos issue rolls on, it appears that every day is a good day to bury bad news, and last week the judicial authorities in Greece quietly announced the astonishing fact that they were closing the investigation into the 2004 phone-tapping with no action being taken against anybody.

Between the run-up to the Athens Olympics in 2004 and March 2005, the Vodafone network in Greece was compromised and software installed that allowed the phones of 106 people to be tapped. These included senior Government officials, senior army figures, journalists and human rights activists.

Now, after 3 years of investigations, the case has been dropped because the investigating magistrate, Panagiotis Petropoulos, has found 'no evidence' of who was responsible.

Call me old-fashioned, but traditionally in detective mystery novels, when the hero has few clues as to who has perpetrated a crime, he sometimes builds up a profile of likely suspects.

So, let us have a go here. We can probably rule out competing branches of the Greek government since they appear to be the victims of the phone-tapping. Therefore, we are looking for someone with the technical know-how, finances and operatives on the ground in Greece who can penetrate a major international mobile phone network. For motive, it seems like they might be worried about the security arrangements around the Athens Olympic Games.

Hmmmm, it is quite a puzzle isn't it? Who could pull off such a plan and get away with it?

Still, even if Greek politicians and the Greek justice system were too craven to look too hard for evidence of who might have been spying on them, at least newspaper cartoonists were able to speak the seemingly unspeakable over here.

Greek newspaper cartoon

At least, given the British government's determination to share data across the Atlantic at every opportunity, as policy or otherwise, this shouldn't be such an issue in 2012.

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