Spy Scandal Widens at German Rail Deutsche Bahn | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 04.02.2009
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Spy Scandal Widens at German Rail Deutsche Bahn

Germany's national railway Deutsche Bahn has admitted to a second case of large-scale staff surveillance. Union leaders are up in arms as calls grow louder for CEO Hartmut Mehdorn to step down.

A symbol image of a magnifying glass and Deutsche Bahn employees

Deutsche Bahn says it was out to uncover corruption

Deutsche Bahn spokesman on Wednesday, Feb. 4, confirmed media reports that in 2005 the company had examined personal data from 173,000 employees -- around three-quarters of its total workforce -- for signs of corruption.

Workers' bank account information was reportedly compared with that of Deutsche Bahn customers to see if bribes had been paid. Last week, Deutsche Bahn had acknowledged that a similar surveillance operation had taken place in 2002-2003, also involving 173,000 employees.

Deutsche Bahn said that its supervisory board was informed last Friday of the second surveillance operation.

On Tuesday, Bahn chief Hartmut Mehdorn told workers in a letter that "mistakes" had been made, but he made no indication that the data check was repeated in 2005.

Unions demand apology from CEO

Mehdorn conceded that employee representatives should have been involved in the operation. However, he did not offer the direct apology that unions have demanded.

Helmut Mehdorn

Union leaders are upset that CEO Mehdorn hasn't issued a clear apology

The head of the railway union Transnet, Alexander Kirchner, said in an interview with the daily Berliner Zeitung, "The entire operation has to be completely laid out on the table."

The union has had "enough of Chipmunk, Owl and Babylon," he added, referring to code names used in the surveillance actions.

An expert in domestic politics for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Dieter Wiefelspuetz, told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper in an interview that "Mehdorn should perhaps begin to look for another job."

However, Klaus-Dieter Hommel, head of the railway union GDBA, told broadcaster ARD that it "wasn't helpful" to discuss Mehdorn's job, when the entire Deutsche Bahn management should be held responsible.

Deutsche Telekom also faces data scandal

Also this week, Deutsche Telekom confirmed press reports of a similar surveillance operation.

A Telekom spokesman said that the group had gone through the bank accounts of more than 100,000 workers in 2006 and compared them with those of suppliers for signs of possible shell companies.

In contrast to the Deutsche Bahn case, the Bonn-based telecommunications group said its investigations had been carried out anonymously and in coordination with worker representatives.

Lothar Schroeder, head of the Telekom's supervisory board, refuted the claim.

"The workers' council was not aware of the extent to which data was being pulled," Schroeder was quoted as saying in Wednesday's edition of the Frankfurter Rundschau.

Schroeder also said the new information could lead to a fresh data scandal for the telecommunications giant.

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