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US News The investigation into the sale of Nigerien uranium by Areva in 2011 entrusted to an investigating judge

00:25  26 november  2020
00:25  26 november  2020 Source:   ouest-france.fr

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A Nigerien newspaper published documents last month showing a bank transfer in November 2011 for 0 million from an account belonging to state miner Sopamin to an account controlled by an offshore company called Optima Energy. Areva did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Areva bought UraMin, a Canada-based company with assets in Namibia, the Central African Republic and South Africa In 2011 the company wrote off nearly the entire stake as prices dropped following the Fukushima disaster. UraMin also turned out to have far smaller uranium deposits than hoped.

Le parquet national financier (PNF) a mené son enquête préliminaire pendant presque cinq années. (Photo d’illustration) © Ouest-France / Yann Castanier The National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) conducted its preliminary investigation for almost five years. (Photo illustration)

The affair, dubbed "Uraniumgate", broke out in February 2017 with the publication, in the Nigerian weekly Le Courrier, of documents relating to the sale in the fall of 2011 of a large quantity of uranium for $ 320 million.

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General elections were held in Niger on 31 January 2011 to elect the President and National Assembly, with a second round of the presidential elections on 12 March.

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The National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) opened a judicial investigation in particular for “corruption” targeting Areva, now Orano , in a Nigerien uranium brokerage case in 2011 which resulted in significant losses for the nuclear group , he said on Wednesday, November 25.

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An inquisitorial system is a legal system in which the court, or a part of the court, is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case. This is distinct from an adversarial system , in which the role of the court is primarily that of an impartial referee between the prosecution and the defense.

After having carried out its preliminary investigation for almost five years, the PNF entrusted the rest of the investigations in February 2020 to an examining magistrate for “corruption of a foreign public official, private corruption, criminal conspiracy, abuse of corporate assets , breach of trust and organized gang money laundering of these crimes ”, detailed the prosecution, confirming information from the weekly L'Obs.

"If it turns out that there has been embezzlement or any other act which is likely to have harmed the group, Orano would take the legal actions necessary to defend its interests" , 'AFP a spokesperson for the nuclear group.

"Uraniumgate"

The affair, dubbed "Uraniumgate" , broke out in February 2017 with the publication, in the Nigerian weekly Le Courrier, of documents relating to the sale in autumn 2011 of a large quantity of uranium for $ 320 million.

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The stock was initially sold by Areva to a Russian company, Energo Alyans, which then sold it to Optima Energy Offshore in Lebanon.

A few days later, Optima sold the uranium to the Niger State-controlled Société de Patrimoine des Mines du Niger (Sopamin). Areva then bought this stock from Sopamin at a price much higher than that at which it had initially sold it.

Financial arrangement

The police officers of the financial brigade, in charge of investigations after the revelation of questionable transactions by the weekly Marianne in the summer of 2015, sought to determine whether the financial arrangement could have made it possible to conceal commissions or retrocommissions.

Between November 2011 and February 2012, between November 2011 and February 2012, between $ 24 million and $ 101 million were embezzled from the Areva group, according to L'Obs.

According to the weekly, the judicial investigation was entrusted to the same investigating judge as the one in charge of the investigation into the acquisition by Areva of a Canadian mining company, Uramin, owner of three uranium deposits in Africa , for which he spent 1.8 billion euros in 2007.

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Two open judicial inquiries

The operation had turned into a fiasco: after the departure of his boss Anne Lauvergeon, Areva had divided by five the value of the company and spent, at the end of 2011, a heavy provision of 1.5 billion euros.

Two judicial inquiries had been opened: one relates to suspicions of fraud and corruption, the second to the provisions entered in 2010 and 2011 by Areva, the magistrates suspecting former officials of having undervalued them in the accounts to hide the collapse in Uramin's value.

Several former leaders of the group are indicted in these investigations, including the former director of the "mines" division Sébastien de Montessus. Anne Lauvergeon, she is continued in the accounting section.

In this last case, the Paris Court of Appeal must rule on December 17 on the validity of the indictments, which were the subject of a judicial standoff from 2017 between the first judges of instruction who refused to pronounce them and the PNF who demanded them.

Iran's parliament wants more uranium. .
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