Phone tapping soars by 150pc
25 February 2005, BRUSSELS - The Belgian police and judiciary system is using the latest phone tapping technology to listen in on an escalating number of phone calls.
25 February 2005
BRUSSELS - The Belgian police and judiciary system is using the latest phone tapping technology to listen in on an escalating number of phone calls.
Back in 2001, the government decided to pay for a highly sophisticated eavesdropping system in a bid to fight organised crime.
It spent EUR 6 million on a central information system, 29 listening stations and a number of mobile stations that allow investigators to listen in to calls while on the road.
On Friday, the media reported that for the first time social democrat Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx has revealed how much is being spent on phone tapping and who the police are listening in to.
The minister said that the latest figures showed that 1,347 calls were tapped in 2003 - an estimated 77,661 hours, at a cost to the taxpayer of EUR 25 million.
That was 150 percent more calls than the number tapped the previous year and 250 percent more than in 2001.
An analysis of the nature of 65 percent of the calls tapped showed that mobiles were listened to most.
They made up 744 operations, compared to just 107 on ordinary phone lines, nine fax lines and two Internet lines.
The classic image of phone tapping by planting a microphone in a home or office was used in just 14 cases.
In 86 percent of cases those who get their phones tapped are suspected criminals.
The rest are people who are in contact with key suspects.
In a third of the cases, the police are investigating drug dealing (34 percent), 15 percent of cases relate to violent robberies and in 11.5 percent of phone taps the suspects are thought to be involved with criminal organisations.
For every 10 calls tapped, four need a translator - 86 cases needed an Arabic speaker, 47 needed translation from French into Dutch for a Flemish detective, 43 Albanese, 31 Russian and 29 Spanish.
For the police, 38 percent of the calls tapped turned out to be "crucial" for an investigation, while 33 percent provided "important elements" for hunting for evidence.
Onkelinx, though, admitted the cost of the operations were high and wants to see the EUR 25 million bill cut by negotiating with phone companies for discounts.
There is evidence, too, that some phone companies have been charging varying rates to provide services like identifying numbers or allowing a line to be tapped.
Onkelinx also wants magistrates to be better trained about the new technology so they use the resources wisely.
One investigating magistrate, for instance, asked for a pylon in central Brussels to be tapped between noon and midnight.
"As you can imagine with all the Japanese who visit the capital the bill was EUR 40,000," said Onkelinx.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news