Relander defence: Sonera internal security investigation legal
Suspected information leak and managers' disloyal conduct made investigation necessary
At the ongoing trial of top figures of the telecommunications service provider Sonera, the defence lawyer of former Sonera CEO Kaj-Erik Relander conceded on Wednesday that there were attempts in 2000 and 2001 to dig up information on the telephone calls of certain Sonera managers.
Relander’s lawyer Jussi Savonen emphasised, however, that the tracing of communications information was legal.
According to Savonen, Relander was unaware that Sonera’s security department had dug up all of the telecommunications of the people under investigation.
He said that Relander was unaware that outsiders, such as journalists or members of the Board of Directors, were targeted.
The main branch of the case, involving alleged illegal tracing of mobile telephone calls, was the focus of Wednesday’s session of the ongoing trial in Helsinki District Court.
In October 2000 and in January through March 2001, Sonera’s security department acquired information of the mobile telephone calls of two Helsingin Sanomat journalists, dozens of Sonera employees, and several members of the company's Board of Directors.
In its secret operation, the security department also looked up the contact information of fixed-line phone and e-mail communications of Sonera employees.
According to Relander’s defence, there were two reasons for starting the investigation: Relander suspected that company secrets were being leaked from the company’s subsidiary Smart Trust. In addition, he wanted to find out if three of Sonera’s managers were in direct contact with the Board of Directors, even though Relander himself was supposed to deal with all such contacts.
Savonen says that company secrets of Smart Trust were contained in a Helsingin Sanomat article concerning problems experienced by former CEO Harri Vatanen.
"Relander actually had an obligation to investigate the leaking of corporate secrets", Savonen said.
Investigating the contacts between Sonera managers Harri Vatanen and Harri Holmen was seen as necessary because Relander suspected that they had been in direct contact with the Sonera Board of Directors.
Digging up the contacts of Pirjo Kekäläinen-Torvinen was seen as necessary after she did not want to withdraw from an auction for operating licences for next-generation UMTS mobile networks.
Prosecutor Markku Pohjanoksa staunchly disagrees. In his view, billing information of mobile phone customers can be used only to ascertain whether or not a bill is correct, and not to dig up information on who a person has communicated with. The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority takes a similar view.
Pohjanoksa put several e-mails into evidence, which he said indicate that Relander and communications director Jari Jaakkola learned of the illegal methods employed by the security department already in the autumn of 2000. Jaakkola’s task was to send Sonera’s security department a list of people privy to corporate secrets, and the telephone numbers of two journalists.
Defence lawyers of Sonera’s security chief Juha E. Miettinen said on Wednesday that Miettinen received specific instructions from Relander to use the telecommunications information in the investigation.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Data Protection Ombudsman suspects Sonera was aware of snooping (9.2.2005)
Sonera defendants deny deliberate violation of telecommunications privacy (8.2.2005)
Six Sonera executives charged in Sonera phone record scandal (4.1.2005)