Former EU head Juncker defends himself in Luxembourg wiretap case

Jean-Claude Juncker gives his last press conference in his role as President of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, 29 November 2019. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

The former EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told a court on Wednesday (4 March) that he had not authorised illegal wiretapping that forced him in 2013 to resign from his post as Prime Minister of Luxembourg.

The Luxembourg court began hearing the case on Tuesday of three former intelligence agents accused of installing the illegal wires back in 2007.

One of the accused, Marco Mille, head of Luxembourg’s SREL intelligence service at the time, claims Juncker gave the go-ahead for the wiretaps.

The former prime minister Juncker was flanked by bodyguards as he arrived at the court building to deliver his much-anticipated testimony.

“I think that I would have remembered authorising a wire tap,” he said on oath.

Juncker, 65, had already denied having given his approval to these wiretaps during a 2013 hearing before a parliamentary commission of inquiry on the actions of the Intelligence service.

However that commission concluded that Juncker had political responsibility in the case.

Abandoned by his socialist allies, Juncker resigned in October 2013. He had been in power for 18 years and was at the time Europe’s longest-serving leader.

His CSV party found itself in opposition after a general election and Juncker was subsequently appointed president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.

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That mandate ended in December, allowing him to appear as a witness in the current case.

Mille and two other former SREL agents stand accused of participating in illegal eavesdropping in 2007 and the misappropriation of an encrypted CD containing the recording of a conversation between Luxembourg’s Grand Duke Henri and Juncker on a series of attacks which left five injured in the 1980s in the Grand Duchy.

The Luxembourg judges must now decide whether the three suspects broke the law on the protection of private information and whether they were authorised to do so by a competent authority, in this case Juncker.

Pol Urbany, a lawyer for the accused, said on Tuesday that the original parliamentary enquiry commission had established Juncker’s responsibility in the case and asked why the former PM was only being called as a witness rather than a suspect.

In 2014 Juncker, who is also the former head of the eurogroup of finance ministers, had his public profile tarnished by the “LuxLeaks” scandal which revealed that Luxembourg offered top multinationals huge tax breaks while he was prime minister.

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