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Tsalikidis’ doubtful “suicide” has been deemed a murder

Almost thirteen years after the mysterious death of Kostas Tsalikidis, a former Vodafone executive found hanging in his Athens apartment in March of 2005, the alleged suicide has been pronounced a murder by the Greek Department of Justice. Tsalikidis’ death occurred just before Vodafone’s illegal software installation and mobile phone tapping scandal was discovered. According to the District Attorney’s Office, criminal charges for intentional manslaughter have now been brought against unidentified suspects for intentional manslaughter by District Attorney Sotiria Papageorgakopoulou, at the request of the Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Appeal, Grigoris Peponis.
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The third investigation of the case, in a series of examinations by the prosecution authorities, began in November of 2017 immediately after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) unanimously condemned Greece’s faulty investigation into the causes of Tsalikidis’ death. The ECHR cited that his family members had filed a claim for damages of €50,000 plus €4,000 in legal costs.  

The European Court of Justice held that the Greek authorities had not carried out an “adequate and effective” investigation to examine the causes of Tsalikidis’ death and found that the authorities were in a hurry to close the supplementary investigation by simply naming the steps they had taken and citing new reports without explaining important details.

A primary prosecutory investigation that preceded the third merely accepted that Tsalikidis’ death was a suicide and was in no way connected to the phone tapping scandal. The first and second investigations were carried out by then-district attorneys Yannis Diotis and Charis Lakafosis, respectively.  

Tsalikidis was found hanging in his home on March 9th, 2005 and Greek authorities (rather hastily) pronounced his death a suicide. Nevertheless, expert reports showed that there was no suicidal motive that his body lacked injuries typical of suicide cases (such as marks around the victim’s throat). The European Court of Human Rights pointed out inconsistencies between the investigations of the causes of Tsalikidis’ death–the first carried out in 2005 and the second between 2012 and 2014 and criticized Greece for failing to order a new investigation into the case and work with a prosecutor.

The ruling stated:

Other contradictions, such as the apparent lack of motive for suicide, as confirmed in the psychiatrist’s report, and the broken hyoid bone, a finding consistent with strangulation, had not been addressed either. … 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. The order to close the investigation, merely referring to the new reports, had contained no reasoning or analysis of the evidence available.

It had been even more important to take all the necessary measures to investigate the death, bearing in mind that the public prosecutor, during the initial investigation, had mentioned that the death had been causally linked to the wiretapping case.

“Suicide” one day before the scandal

Kostas Tsalikidis worked at Vodafone for 11 years and in 2001 was promoted to Network Manager. His supposed “suicide” has been linked to the phone tapping scandal, which, a few months earlier, occupied public attention. The connection became even more intense when it was discovered that just a day after Tsalikidis’ death, the then-prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, was informed for the first time of secret surveillance of members of his government, political journalists and professionals, and himself being carried out through illegal software in Vodafone’s mobile system. As the ECHR ruling notes,

A parliamentary investigation revealed in 2006 that the unauthorised spyware had been implanted in software provided to the phone operator for whom Mr Tsalikidis was working by another telecommunications company. Mr Tsalikidis was responsible for accepting the software and met regularly with the other company’s representatives.

The illegal software had been deleted from Vodafone’s systems one day before Tsalikidis’ death on March 8th, 2005; Tsalikidis had moreover been informed about the phone tapping case the very same day at a Vodafone managerial meeting, of which no minutes were kept.

As  newspaper then reported, about a month before his death Tsalikidis had mentioned to one of his colleagues that he needed to leave Vodafone because it was “a matter of life and death.” A few weeks before March 9th, he said to the same colleague that “Vodafone was in danger of shutting down completely.”  

At a February 2006 press conference, three government ministers, Theodore Rousopoulos, George Voulgarakis, and Anastasios Papaligouras, notified the public of the phone tapping scandal, a “serious matter of national security”. Through illegal software installed by Vodafone, about 100 phones had been monitored during the span of 2004 to 2005 using 14-16 prepaid “shadow-phones,” which recorded talks in and around the American Embassy.

The case was nevertheless closed in 2008. It was reopened and revisited two years later when new information emerged regarding the involvement of the US National Security Agency, without, however, clarification of the circumstances of Tsalikidis’ death.  


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