On Monday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis admitted surveillance was a mistake but denied knowledge of the phone-tapping scandal which caused political uproar and led to the resignment of high-ranking officials following its revelation last week.
“What happened was wrong, I was not aware of it and I would not have allowed it,” he told the nation in a live broadcast statement.
The inquest on Member of the European Parliament and opposition leader Nikos Androulakis’ phone-tapping allegations had confirmed that a surveillance request had been made by the Greek National Intelligence Service (EYP) and approved by a chief prosecutor, as legally required. The surveillance ceased after three months—only a few days after Androulakis was elected as the new leader of center-left party PASOK.
“Apart from the fact that everything was done lawfully, EYP underestimated the political dimension of this particular case,” the Greek PM added, admitting that the move “was formally adequate, but politically unacceptable.”
PM Mitsotakis vowed to discuss proposals to make the operation of EYP more transparent without obstructing its crucial work in the field of national security, and specifically suggested four areas in need of improvement besides the review of the lawful phone-tapping issue.
Phone-tapping scandal revealed by spyware scan
Androulakis, who has been a member of European Parliament since 2014 and was elected as PASOK leader in December 2021, said last week that he had learned EYP had attempted to phone-tap him in late 2021.
During a routine scan of his mobile phone last month through a special European Parliament service, a suspect link was revealed, which would allow the hacker full and constant access to the mobile device, had he clicked on it.
The phone-tapping scandal led to the resignations of the chief of the Greek National Intelligence Service, Panagiotis Kontoleon, and that of the Secretary General of the Prime Minister, Grigoris Dimitriadis, who assumed the objective political responsibility and were removed immediately “following wrong practices in the process of information gathering.”
Kontoleon, who was appointed to the position in August 2019, was replaced by Foreign Ministry Secretary General Themistoklis Demiris. The new EYP chief is expected to brief Parliament’s ethics and transparency committee on these developments upon conclusion of the summer break.
Armenia denies involvement
In the lead up to the Monday statement, government sources had downright denied that the PM’s office had been informed about EYP’s monitoring of Androulakis’ mobile phone.
Local media reported claims that the surveillance of Androulakis had been requested by the Ukrainian and Armenian intelligence services. Armenia’s Ambassador to Greece, Tigran Mkrtchyan, has denied involvement.
In a Facebook post published on the embassy’s official page, the diplomat said: “It’s a shameless lie. Armenia has never asked any government to tap anyone’s phone.”
Journalist Thanasis Koukakis, also revealed to have been a victim of phone-tapping by EYP, had told the media on Friday that he is unaware of how he poses a national security threat as a journalist covering economic policy and the banking system.