EDF convicted on spying charges

14 November 2011

State-owned EDF, the largest power company in Europe, has been convicted in a French court on charges of spying on the environmental watchdog Greenpeace. The company was fined EUR1.5 million and two of its executives given gaol sentences.

The court, in Nanterre, near Paris, sentenced the head of nuclear safety, Pascal Durieux, to three years' imprisonment, two years suspended, and a EUR10,000 fine for commissioning the spying operation. His second in command, Pierre-Paul François, was sentenced to three years' imprisonment with 30 months suspended. The company has also been ordered to pay EUR500,000 in damages to Greenpeace.

The judge also handed down a guilty verdict in the case of Thierry Lorho, the head of Kargus, which was employed by EDF to hack into the computers of Greenpeace. He has been sentenced to three years in jail, with two suspended, and a EUR4000 fine.

The company was charged with complicity in concealing stolen documents and complicity to intrude in a computer network. EDF and Greenpeace have fought for years over France's policy of nuclear power production.

In 2006, EDF hired a private detective agency called Kargus Consultants to find out more about Greenpeace France's intentions and its plans to block new nuclear generation in the UK. The trial found that the agency hacked the computer of Yannick Jadot, Greenpeace's then campaigns director, taking 1400 documents.

"The fine against EDF and the damages awarded to Greenpeace send a strong signal to the nuclear industry that no one is above the law," said Adélaïde Colin, communications director for Greenpeace France.

The case has sparked outrage among anti-nuclear campaigners in France whose secret services were behind the bombing of the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior 26 years ago.

EDF owns the UK nuclear power operator British Energy. During the trial, EDF said that it was the victim of overzealous efforts to find out what Greenpeace was doing and that the company was unaware anyone would hack into a computer at Greenpeace. Following the trial EDF officials declined to comment.

During evidence presented to the court the judge heard that EDF had been hacking into the hard drives of Greenpeace computers and had placed a 'Trojan Horse'‚ in the hard drive of one computer that enabled the company to access private emails and documents being written by Greenpeace. It also emerged at the trial that EDF had hired Kargus to compile a dossier on the work of Greenpeace UK. This was during the period EDF was attempting to get its foot in the door of the UK nuclear energy market through the purchase of British Energy.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: "The evidence presented at the trial showed that the espionage undertaken by EDF in its efforts to discredit Greenpeace was both extensive and totally illegal. The company should now give a full account of the spying operation it mounted against its critics. As one of the six companies with a monopoly over electricity supply in [the UK] and a major sponsor of the Olympics, EDF has a duty to come clean. The length of the sentences handed down shows just how seriously the judge views what the French state owned company did."

Meanwhile, EDF has released its third quarter results, revealing that sales for the first 9 months of 2011 (EUR 47.2 billion) were up 3.2% an organic basis compared to the same period in 2010. Nuclear power generation and operational performance also improved.

Nuclear power generation in the first nine months of 2011 reached 315 TWh in France (up 5.4% compared to 9M 2010) and 44 TWh in the UK (up 25.7%). EDF said that net flows between France and Germany “increased significantly” between April and September owing to the combination of the French nuclear fleet’s higher availability and less domestic demand because of milder weather while Germany suffered from a less competitive mix, with lower wind power production and the closure of some of its nuclear reactors (around 5GW).

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