After years spent reducing debt and increasing its subscriber base, Gallic paybox Canal Plus was in crisis mode again last week, this time over a spy scandal that has caused at least one head to roll.
Gilles Kaehlin, head of security since the late 1990s, resigned May 3 amid allegations that he spied on the company’s own execs.
In one instance, Kaehlin, a former agent of France’s FBI, allegedly stole mobile phone records with the help of a police officer, and plotted to entrap an employee considered troublesome by top management by either planting drugs on him or setting him up with a prostitute.
The sting was never carried out. But the alleged victim, Bruno Gaccio, inventor of the feared satire show “Les Guignols de L’Info” and a loyal ally of ousted topper Pierre Lescure, has issued a writ for “invasion of privacy and confidentiality of correspondence.”
Scandal broke after the recent publication of the memoirs of former spy Pierre Martinet. In his book Martinet claims that while working for Canal Plus, instead of trying to nab users of pirated decoders he was redeployed to snoop on employees.
“I had tracked down Islamists, and now I was supposed to tail the Guignols on the telly,” Martinet told Le Monde. “It was ridiculous. … I did not serve the republic to end up doing this.”
Former Canal Plus execs recall Kaehlin as a shadowy but powerful figure whose internal security ops were so intrusive that it became a running joke among staff to sign off their telephone conversations with, “Bye Gilles.”