On March 16, a French satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné broke the story that the computer of a former campaign director of Greenpeace France had been hacked a few years earlier. This was uncovered while the police were investigating hacking related to drug testing by a French laboratory, but at this stage no details were available on who was responsible.
Two weeks after this revelation, the investigative journalism website Mediapart.fr published a story entitled "EDF spied on Greenpeace". It turned out that the French electricity company Electricité de France (EDF) had hired Kargus Consultants, a company specialising in information risk management, to spy on all activities that could affect the safety or image of EDF. Alain Quiros, a hacker working for Kargus Consultants, confessed to having hacked into a Greenpeace computer.
Later it was revealed that EDF has also been using the services of a Swiss company, Securewyse, to spy on Sortir du Nucleaire, another French anti-nuclear movement. They also reported that the investigators found a CD with files from Yannick Jadot’s computer in the office safe of EDF official Pierre François. Finally, the Greenpeace France warehouse is reported to have been under surveillance by EDF.
From the court documents, it was clear that at least two contracts were signed between EDF and Kargus, in 2004 and 2007, for the provision of "operational support for the ongoing strategic surveillance of environmental organisations and their activities and practices." It was revealed that EDF’s Pierre Francois said in a statement: "It was a question of the non-governmental group's organisation in Belgium, Spain, perhaps Britain, let's say Europe".
Two senior EDF officials are under investigation in French court: Pierre François, site protection engineer and a former police detective, and Admiral Pascal Durieux, security director of EDF. On April 10, EDF announced that the two staff members had been suspended from their duties, "a precautionary measure following an internal inquiry". Greenpeace France is civil party in the investigation against Kargus and EDF.
EDF’s spying practices are a symptom of the secrecy inherent to nuclear energy. As has been demonstrated over and over again, democracy and the nuclear industry do not mix. The fact that non-violent environmental organisations are being treated like terrorists because we dare to question nuclear energy shows just how frightened the nuclear industry is of transparency and a democratic debate.
Greenpeace has been pushing this scandal in many countries where EDF/the French nuclear industry has a presence, resulting in the story being covered in e.g. English, Spanish, Italian, German, Belgian and Danish media. In the UK, Germany, Belgium and Spain, Greenpeace is demanding assurances from EDF/EDF Energy/EnBW that those offices have not been subject to similar spying practices.
The Economist analysed the spy-affair as follows:
“The affair is embarrassing for EDF, Europe’s biggest energy company, which is 85% owned by the French government. The firm hopes to profit from a global revival of nuclear power. In December it bought half of the nuclear assets of Constellation, an American utility, and in January it completed a deal to buy British Energy, a nuclear utility. This week Jean-Marc Sabathé, director of security at EDF, told Le Monde, a French newspaper, that as a result of the affair “our industrial reputation is at stake at the moment when EDF is engaged in the renewal of civil nuclear power in France and internationally.” Allegations of corporate espionage also reflect badly on the French nuclear-energy industry as a whole, which has been trying to improve its image and become more transparent.
Source: Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International / “EDF and Greenpeace - Nuclear conflict”, Economist, 23 April 2009
Contact: Dr. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International, Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
EDF is also awaiting the outcome of another investigation. On March 10th the European Commission’s antitrust authorities raided EDF’s headquarters in Paris looking for evidence that it had abused its dominant market position to inflate electricity prices in France. It is so far unknown whether the competition body found any evidence. Even as it expands its reach internationally, France’s nuclear champion is coming under increased scrutiny.”