A court in France has fined energy company Electricité de France S.A. (EDF) 1.5 million euros ($2 million) for spying on Greenpeace activists.
In addition, the court granted Greenpeace 500,000 euros ($680,000) in damages that EDF must shell out.
The Nanterre court determined that EDF used the services of Kargus Consultants, a private French security firm, to spy on the Greenpeace campaigners who were demonstrating against the construction of new nuclear reactors in France. In particular, Greenpeace members targeted plans to build a reactor at Flammanville on the coast of Normandy
Kargus, the court concluded, also compiled a dossier on Greenpeace by hacking into the computer of former Greenpeace member Yannick Jadot.
Reportedly, Kargus illegally seized 1400 documents belonging to Jadot.
Judge Isabelle Prevost-Desprez also handed out three-year prison sentences to Pascal Durieux and Pierre-Paul Francois, head and deputy head, respectively, of EDF's nuclear security operation.
Also, Thierry Lorho, the former chief of Kargus, got three years in jail, while Kargus information specialist Alain Quiros received two years.
Greenpeace UK reported that Kargus was run by former members of France’s secret service agency.
Adelaide Colin, communications director for Greenpeace in France, told media that the court’s decision sends a strong signal to the nuclear industry: no-one is above the law.
However, EDF defended itself by claiming it only asked Kargus to “monitor” Greenpeace, but that the security overstepped its bounds.
Greenpeace UK's 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 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, which owns British Energy, operates sight nuclear stations in the UK and is seeking to build a new batch of nuclear reactors in Britain.