Six Sonera executives charged in Sonera phone record scandal
Kaj-Erik Relander, former CEO of the telecommunications service provider Sonera, and five other Sonera executives were served with indictments on Monday in a case involving alleged violation of communications privacy.
Prosecutor Markku Pohjanoksa feels that Relander ran afoul of the law in the autumn of 2000 and the early part of 2001.
The prosecutor believes that Relander tried to learn about contacts between a Helsingin Sanomat journalist and a number of Sonera executives and board members.
The secret operation allegedly targeted 53 people whose mobile phone records, e-mails, and fixed-line phone records were investigated by the Sonera security unit.
Relander sharply denied the charges on Monday.
"I did nothing illegal in the matter", Relander said in an e-mail forwarded by his lawyer Jussi Savonen.
Relander said that it seems that many in Sonera who sought the help of the security unit after 1997 now "unwittingly face prosecution". Relander blames "interpretations of the law espoused by the security unit, which other parts of the company did not know about".
He also points to the complicated nature of rules on the matter.
"The legal protection of those who deal with modern communications technology would require clear rules. Unfortunately now the issue is being clarified after the fact in a trial", writes Relander, who currently works as a capital investor in London.
In addition to Relander, charges have been filed against former Sonera communications director Jari Jaakkola and former business operations manager Jaakko Nevanlinna.
Also facing trial in the case is Sonera’s former head of security Juha E. Miettinen, who is also a defendant in the call tracing case involving the government and the Security Police.
Head of security Alpo Manninen and security chief Sari-Anna Pulkkinen also face charges of aggravated violation of telecommunications privacy.
Both Manninen and Pulkkinen worked as Miettinen’s subordinates.
According to police investigations, the defendants traced communications of former Sonera managers in 1997 - 2001, looking for evidence of possible information theft and other disloyal behaviour.
In addition, Sonera is believed to have given illicit help to police investigators, including those of the Security Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Helsinki Police.
Juha E. Miettinen got an indictment alleging that he gave such assistance to the Helsinki Police, even though no evidence was found of a police official receiving his information.
A number of Sonera employees under investigation were not charged, because they were seen to have been following their superiors’ orders. A total of 15 suspects were interrogated.
A total of 81 people are believed to have been targets of the snooping. In addition, the privacy of more than 6,000 people with whom the 81 others were in contact, could be seen as having been indirectly violated.
Sonera plans to offer each of the main targets compensation of between EUR 600 and EUR 800.
Aggravated violation of communications privacy can bring a sentence of up to three years' imprisonment.
An act is seen as aggravated if the perpetrator takes advantage of his or her position in a telecommunications company.
Four of those being prosecuted, Jaakkola, Pulkkinen, Nevanlinna, and Manninen, are still on Sonera’s payroll. Sonera intends to decide on the future of their positions later.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Investigators say Sonera developed software to spy on personnel e-mail (13.9.2004)
Security Police leadership suspected of concealing involvement in Sonera snooping (26.8.2004)
Allegations of illegal tracing of phone records at Sonera to go to trial in autumn (8.4.2004)