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Lower house extends powers of intelligence services

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Prague, July 8 (CTK) – The Czech Chamber of Deputies passed Wednesday a bill extending the powers of the secret services, giving them access to the tax and banking secrecy and data from telecom operators.

The legislation will now go to the Senate.

The bill authorises the secret services to ask the General Financial Directorate for tax information. The office will not be obliged to provide data if this threatened the effective tax collection.

The valid law only allows the flow of information from the secret services to the tax administration bodies.

Agents will be able to ask telecommunication operators for data on their clients in fulfilling a specific task. They would be able to identify the owner of the telephone station or the telephone number of the phone from which the phone call is made.

Now, the secret services have access to the call content and the number of the called person when applying wiretapping.

The bill deletes the restriction of access to data protected by banking secrecy exclusively in cases of financing terrorism.

“The protection of banking secrecy and the clients’ privacy has always been the priority of the banking sector. The need to gain consent of the chairperson of the panel of the high court with the application for data is a safequard against abuse. Still, we consider it suitable that the government strengthen the control of the secret services in connection with the implementation of the authorisation,” Jan Matousek, deputy director of the Czech Banking Association, told CTK.

“If the proposals aim to extend the range of the stored and transferred data, it should be assessed whether operators will be at all capable of storing the data and what costs this will involve,” Lucie Jungmannova, spokeswoman for the O2 operator, said.

The amendment is to help gain information on people connected with organised crime and money laundering.

It is improve the conditions of uncovering corruption, effort to influence the functioning of state-controlled institutions and financial support for terrorism abroad.

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