The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Greece to pay damages to relatives of Vodafone executive Costas Tsalikidis who was found dead on the eve of the government’s discovery of a major illegal wiretapping operation that had targeted the country’s political and military leadership.
In a statement, the ECHR said judges ordered Greece to pay 50,000 euros in damages plus 4,000 euros court costs, after finding that the investigation into the death of executive Costas Tsalikidis had been incomplete.
“Human rights judges said Greece’s authorities failed to investigate adequately the death of a phone operator employee allegedly linked to a high profile wiretapping affair,” the ECHR said in a statement. The court found that there was “a violation of Article 2 (right to life/investigation) of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
39-year-old Tsalikidis was found hanged in his Athens apartment in March 2005, the day before the Greek Government was informed that many of its members, including the Prime Minister, had had their mobile phones wiretapped. An installed spyware had more than 100 mobile phones belonging to ministers, high-ranking officials and officers were wiretapped.
The death looked like a suicide. Authorities and media strongly feel that Tsalikidis‘s death was associated with his position in the company.
He was Vodafone Greece’s Network Planning Manager when it was uncovered that Vodafone Greece was involved in one of the biggest political scandals of recent Greek history – tapping mobile phones of members of the cabinet, the Prime Minister, and hundreds of others.
A parliamentary investigation revealed in 2006 that the unauthorised spyware had been implanted in software provided to the phone operator for whom Tsalikidis was working by another telecommunications company.
Tsalikidis was responsible for accepting the software and met regularly with the other company’s representatives.
“There were two investigations into the death. The initial investigation, between 2005 and 2006, found that the cause of death had been hanging with a noose; and the supplementary investigation, between 2012 and 2014, upheld the initial investigation’s conclusions, even though two of the three coroners who prepared the new forensic reports concluded that the cause of death remained unclarified,” the Court statement said.
Tsalikidis family did not believe that their relative committed suicide, alleging that both the initial and the supplementary investigation had had serious shortcomings. The family applied to ECHRC in 2014.
The court considered that the Greek authorities had failed to carry out an adequate and effective investigation into the death of Costas Tsalikidis.
The statement noted also:
- It found in particular that the authorities had decided to close the supplementary investigation, simply citing the relevant steps that had been taken and referring to new reports, without addressing any of the inconsistencies that had been identified, such as the lack of injuries normally associated with hanging and contradictions in the rope mark on the deceased’s neck.
- Other inconsistencies had not been resolved either, including the striking difference in the conclusions of the coroners’ forensic reports in the initial and the supplementary investigations, the apparent lack of motive for suicide and the broken hyoid bone, a finding consistent with strangulation. Indeed, it was not even clear on what grounds the public prosecutor had based his decision not to prosecute or to order further investigative measures as his decision to close the investigation had contained no reasoning.
- In reaching that conclusion, the court notably bore in mind that the public prosecutor, during the initial investigation, had mentioned that the death had been causally linked to the wiretapping case. It had therefore been all the more important to take every measure necessary to investigate Costas Tsalikidis’ death.
No one has been named responsible for the wiretaps following subsequent investigations.
The ECHR ruling prompted the reopening of the case. The Appeals Court chief prosecutor requested the case file to assign it anew to investigation.