It reads like a cold war spy thriller. A tale involving a gambling operator, a state monopoly, and the former head of the country’s elite counter-terrorism unit, codename Cobra. Far from fiction however, this is the spy story involving bwin and Casinos Austria that has gripped Austrian media over the past week.Â
bwin is said to have contracted Wolfgang Bachler, a security consultant and former Head of Cobra, to spy on a frequent critic of the online gaming operator and to investigate possible links between the individual and Casinos Austria.
The individual in question, Bert Schmidt, is said to have launched numerous complaints against bwin in the past in the name of Omnia, a Vienna based gaming company.
bwin admitted to hiring Bachler for surveillance purposes. “We needed to be able to objectively assess our environment,â€ said bwin spokesman Kevin OÂ´Neal. â€œWe were looking for evidence to support our suspicions that Casinos Austria was behind SchmidtÂ´s activities.â€
The company contracted the former Cobra head to evaluate risks in countries where the company operates, including Austria. “How Mr Bachler gets the information relevant to his services is unknown to us, and cannot be known to us,â€ added OÂ´Neal.
As part of the operation, Bachler sent two operatives to observe Schmidt. According to police reports, two inconspicuous persons positioned themselves near to Schmidt’s home, from where they could observe his activities and record video footage and photographs of his movements.
At some point the operatives caught the attention of Schmidt who confronted them. The pair are said to have told Schmidt they were journalists photographing the local area, before speeding away in a car.
Schmidt contacted the police and through ‘research’, traced the cars number plate to the owner of the vehicle. Days later the police received an anonymous complaint, accusing officers of performing an illegal search of the police database and Schmidt of instigating abuse of authority.
The department of Internal Affairs however concluded that no searches of the police database had been conducted in the period in question.
Dietmar Hoscher, Chairman of the Board of Casinos Austria,Â is also alleged to have beenÂ under observation.
According to the surveillance report, contact between Hoscher and Schmidt was verified. The name of the Casinos Austria chairman is also said to appear numerous times in the 300+ page Bachler report.
Schmidt has admitted to knowing Hoscher, but denies the “conspiracy theories” of bwin.
bwin for its part claims to have begun the investigation after learning that two of its executives, Norbert Teufelberger and Manfred Bodner, were themselves the subject of surveillance. The company has not ruled out the involvement of Casinos Austria in the spying, however a spokesman for Casinos Austria categorically denied the allegation, calling it “absurd”.
As a result of the spying, both bwin and Casinos Austria have filed suit for civil injury with the public prosecutors office.
Wolfgang Bachler, the former head of Cobra, has said that he himself did not participate in the investigations, but contracted them out.