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EDF Fined €1.5m For Greenpeace Computer Hack

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EDF has been found guilty of hacking into the computers of Greenpeace, and has been issued a hefty bill

The French state energy firm, EDF Energy, has been found guilty of spying on environmental campaign group Greenpeace.

A Paris court today ordered EDF to be fined €1.5 million (£1.4m) for hacking into Greenpeace computers in 2006. EDF has also been ordered to pay half a million euros (£428,000) in damages to Greenpeace.

EDF is a French state-owned energy giant and is the world leader in the production of nuclear power. The company will be familiar to many British people who are its domestic electricity customers. It is also a sponsor of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Now, it has been found guilty of “industrial scale espionage against Greenpeace,” by French Judge Isabelle Prévost-Desprez. It had been charged with complicity in concealing stolen documents and complicity to intrude on a computer network, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Nuclear conflict

The judge sentenced Pierre-Paul François, who was EDF’s deputy head of nuclear production security in 2006 to three years imprisonment, with 30 months suspended. Meanwhile his boss, Pascal Durieux, who was EDF’s head of nuclear production security in 2006, was also sentenced to three years imprisonment, two years suspended, and a 10,000 euros (£8,500) fine for apparently commissioning the spying operation.

It seems that EDF and Greenpeace have been at loggerheads for a number of years now, especially because nuclear power is the primary source of power in France. This is because France made the strategic decision to heavily invest in nuclear power after the 1973 oil crisis.

EDF controlled 59 nuclear power plants in France as of 2002, and by 2008 these plants produced 90 percent of EDF’s and about 78 percent of France’s electrical power production, some of which is exported to Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and, of course, the UK.

The Guardian said that confidential court testimony released by a French Website, Mediapart, two years ago, revealed that EDF had organised surveillance not only of Greenpeace in France, but broadly across Europe since 2004.

It said that EDF hired detective agency Kargus Consultants in 2006 to find out about Greenpeace France’s intentions and its plan to block new nuclear plants in the UK. The agency reportedly hacked the computer of Yannick Jadot, Greenpeace’s then campaigns director, stealing 1,400 documents.

This was achieved after Trojan horse malware was placedin the hard drive of one computer, by Kargus Consultants, that enabled the detective agency to access private emails and documents written by Greenpeace.

As a result of this, the French judge issued a guilty verdict in the case of Thierry Lorho, the head of Kargus Consultants. The former member of France’s secret services was sentenced to three years in jail, with two suspended and a €4,000 (£3,450) fine. EDF was also ordered to pay €50,000 (£42,800) to Jadot.

Greenpeace statement

“The fine against EDF and the damages awarded to Greenpeace send a strong message to the nuclear industry that no one is above the law,” said  Adelaide Colin, Greenpeace’s executive director in France, speaking outside the Paris courtroom.

“This case should send a signal to any country considering building reactors with EDF that the company can’t be trusted,” he added. “Instead of working with the nuclear industry, countries should invest in clean, safe sources of renewable electricity.”

Speaking alongside the new Rainbow Warrior,  docked in London between its maiden voyage trials, 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,” he said. “As one of the six companies with a monopoly over electricity supply in this country, 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.”

EDF UK told eWEEK Europe UK that it does not have a statement at this time. However, it is understood that the firm is denying all responsibility and mayappeal against the decision.