Nuclear spying verdict overturned

07 February 2013

EDF has been acquitted on appeal from a charge of illegally hacking Greenpeace computers. The utility claimed it was also a victim of methods used by a company involved in monitoring the anti-nuclear group.

As the operator of 58 nuclear reactors in France, EDF is periodically the subject of Greenpeace campaigns of many kinds, including repeated attempts to breach plant security. The utility had contracted specialists including Kargus Consultants to monitor Greenpeace activities, but certain Kargus workers went beyond EDF's brief and gained illegal access to the computer of Greenpeace campaigns director Yannick Jadot.

Greenpeace action at Bugey (Greenpeace) 460x321
The most remarkable Greenpeace event in recent years has been this parafoil delivery of smoke bombs to the Bugey power plant. The protester crash-landed on site and was immediately arrested (Image: Greenpeace)

The crimes by Kargus came to light in 2009, prompting EDF to suspend two of its security executives, Pierre-Paul Francois and Pascal Durieux. A trial in late 2011 handed down three-year jail terms for the two men, a fine of €1.5 million ($2.0 million) for the company as well as €500,000 ($670,000) compensation to Greenpeace. The utility had been found guilty of complicity in computer piracy by the court in Parisian suburb of Nanterre.

That decision was overturned yesterday by the verdict of an appeal heard in Versailles. EDF and Pascal Durieux were both acquitted. Only the conviction of Pierre-Paul Francois was upheld; he was ordered to pay €5000 ($6700) in compensation to Greenpeace - half the amount previously specified.

Greenpeace reacted to the acquittal by complaining that 'In France the nuclear industry can do what it wants, the law does not apply'. It said it would urge the Attorney General to look at the case. EDF has not yet commented, but a 2009 letter from its UK subsidiary EDF Energy to Greenpeace UK said that it had "instigated a civil action for damages as a victim of [Kargus]" as soon as it learned of the company's lawbreaking.

The Kargus employees involved, Alan Quiros and Thierry Lorho, both received jail terms and fines after pleading guilty at the first trial.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News