Monday, January 16, 2012

Affaire UraMin: Did French Nuclear Giant Areva Get Stung in a $2.5 Billion Fraud?

I hate question marks in headlines, it's usually a weak attempt at sensationalism without being forthright but in this case I'm actually asking the question.
From Reuters:

Areva uranium deal eyed amid fraud allegations
 Controversy over Areva's $2.5 billion purchase of uranium miner UraMin grew on Friday after a consultant said the French state-owned company may have been the victim of a fraud.

The nuclear energy group has launched an internal enquiry into the 2007 deal after a drop in world uranium prices and disappointing results at UraMin's mines in Africa forced the group to take $2.4 billion of charges on the unit.

Marc Eichinger, a consultant who said he was commissioned by Areva to produce a confidential report on the deal, told French newspaper Le Parisien the takeover was made in "very dubious" conditions.
"Areva had nothing to do with UraMin, a company that had no production or proven reserves," said Eichinger, the founder of Assistance Petroleum International Capital, a consultancy based in Sciez on the French-Swiss border.

Areva declined to make any comment on the interview, only saying the supervisory board expected the findings of an internal investigation by the end of February.

Two sources at Areva, who declined to be identified, said they knew nothing about Eichinger's report.
Eichinger, who did not return calls by Reuters, said the fraud could have been facilitated by some executives at Areva, without citing names.

He said Areva made the acquisition on the basis of information provided by a company paid by UraMin, instead of sending its own experts to evaluate the potential of UraMin's mines.
At the time, Areva said it expected UraMin's deposits in South Africa, Namibia and the Central African Republic to produce around 7,000 tonnes annually from 2012.

"I have no doubt that UraMin has been a very bad deal for Areva, but once this is said, there is nothing more to add to it. Many people have tried to demonstrate this was a fraud but so far no one has brought the proof that it was," said a source who has direct knowledge of the situation....MORE
Libération gets a bit juicier:
Affaire UraMin : Areva en terrain miné 
Analyse:Espionnage, escroquerie, délit d’initié… Les accusations se multiplient entre la direction actuelle du groupe et l’ex-PDG Anne Lauvergeon....
While the Swiss are, Swiss:
Unnamed Swiss firm caught up in probe