Areva office, ex-staffs homes raided by police over purchase probe

Areva office, ex-staffs homes raided by police over purchase probe

Former Areva CEO, Anne Lauvergeon, was once ranked as the world's 9th most powerful woman by Forbes magazine

French police conducted Tuesday a dozen raids to state-controlled nuclear giant Areva's headquarters and the homes of former executives, as part of a probe into the controversial 2007 purchase of a Canadian uranium miner UraMin.

The ongoing investigation focuses on the $2.5billion Areva’s acquisition of UraMin, carried out at a height of demand for enriched uranium, which it later had to write-down.

The search, says Le Monde (in French), follows a report leaked to the French media in May by France’s public auditor, Cour des Comptes. The document was highly critical of decisions made by former chief executive Anne Lauvergeon, finding the company had mishandled the acquisition.

Moreover, UraMin turned out to have far smaller uranium deposits than hoped, which pushed the value of the acquired mines to only $558 million.

This is why the prosecutor in charge of the ongoing investigation, Le Monde reports, is looking into possible "presentation or publication of inaccurate or untrue accounts", "distribution of false or misleading information", and "forgery".

But Lauvergeon, who led Areva for 10 years between 2001 and 2011, and who once was ranked as the world's 9th most powerful woman by Forbes magazine, blamed the UraMin writedown on the impact of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster on uranium demand.

Since then uranium prices have been hitting record lows. Although there’s no spot price for the metal, UX Consulting’s most recent indicator, published June 2, came to $28.25 a pound, which means the commodity is down about 31% over the last 12 months.

Image from WikiMedia Commons.