Ex-Areva CEO Charged Over Statements About Soured UraMin Deal

  • Lauvergeon was quizzed Friday by investigative judges
  • French judges are probing $2.5 billion acquisition in 2007

Former Areva SA Chief Executive Officer Anne Lauvergeon was charged in a probe of the state-controlled French energy company’s 2007 acquisition of uranium mining group UraMin Inc. for about $2.5 billion.

Lauvergeon was charged with spreading false information related to the reserves Areva added at a late stage to its accounts, said her lawyer, Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi. The decision to charge her follows questioning by French investigative judges earlier Friday about the accuracy of Areva’s 2010 accounts.

The acquisition of the mining firm with exploration permits in Namibia, the Central African Republic and South Africa was meant to allow Areva to produce an extra 7,000 metric tons of uranium a year starting in 2012. But the deal soon turned sour and Areva took a net loss of 2.42 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in 2011 mostly linked to the writedowns at its UraMin mining operations.

As the fiasco unfolded Lauvergeon was denied a third term at Areva in 2011 amid increased defiance toward nuclear energy power after the Fukushima disaster and slashed uranium prices.

In addition to the UraMin case, Lauvergeon is being investigated for possible tax fraud, two people familiar with the fiscal case said on Friday. The preliminary inquiry was triggered last September by a complaint from France’s tax authority, said one of the people. Lawyers for Lauvergeon and her husband, Olivier Fric, said they were unaware of the tax-fraud probe but speculated that it could be related to inquiries from the French fiscal authorities in relation to a tax audit.

In 2001, Lauvergeon engineered the three-way merger that turned Paris-based Areva into a one-stop shop selling nuclear technology, fuels and services. Since then, its fortunes have turned. The troubled French state-controlled nuclear group posted in February a fifth year of losses as it made new provisions for the completion of an atomic plant in Finland and wrote down the value of assets amid sluggish demand for its services from utilities.

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