Frenchman arrested for spying in South Korea

21st March 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 21, 2006 (AFP) - The French foreign ministry on Tuesday confirmed that a French national working for the defence company Thales has been arrested in South Korea, charged with obtaining confidential South Korean military documents.

PARIS, March 21, 2006 (AFP) - The French foreign ministry on Tuesday confirmed that a French national working for the defence company Thales has been arrested in South Korea, charged with obtaining confidential South Korean military documents.

"Our embassy in Korea has been informed of this arrest. It immediately went into action to assure the consular protection to which every French citizen is entitled," said a spokesman.

He refused to comment further.

Bernard Favre d'Echallens, 65, and two South Koreans were charged with violating a law protecting South Korean military secrets by obtaining documents concerning radar equipment for the South Korean Navy, a prosecution official told AFP.

A spokesman for Thales headquarters in Paris denied any wrongdoing on the part of the company or by Favre d'Echallens, head of the firm's Seoul office for the past five years.

"He did not steal any documents. He is accused only of gaining access to these documents, which he obtained in good faith," said Christophe Robin, spokesman for the French defence and commercial electronics group.

Favre d'Echallens was accused of obtaining classified information from a researcher at South Korea's Agency for Defence Development (ADD), the government-run research organization.

ADD is responsible for developing a radar system for South Korea's new generation of warships.

The information was allegedly obtained by the Frenchman through a Korean consultant who was a former ADD official. The prosecutors' office said the consultant and a researcher were arrested for leaking the confidential documents.

Thales said it had a close relationship with South Korea and regretted the decision by prosecutors to arrest its employee.

"Thales is surprised by and regrets the decision ...," said Robin.

"Thales believes that it has fully complied with all relevant Korean regulatory procedures. We have been fully cooperating with the investigation."

"Thales believes that positive outcome to this incident will be reached and that its good faith will be recognised in this case. The group will continue to cooperate as the investigation moves forward."

Thales said it had invested heavily in South Korea and maintained "the very best of relations with its Korean military customers ..."

Under a project codenamed FFX and worth 2.4 trillion won (EUR 2.04 billion), South Korea plans to build 24 frigates by 2020.

Thales and BAe Systems, a Britain aerospace and defence firm, are competing for contracts for the radar systems, according to media reports here.

South Korean prosecutors launched an investigation in January over allegations that former and current researchers were leaking information on military procurement projects.

On January 19, a 58-year-old South Korean researcher who was questioned by prosecutors over document leaks committed suicide by jumping off his apartment building.

A French source familiar with the investigation told AFP that the documents Fauvre d'Echallens was accused of obtaining were not identified as confidential or secret.

"There was nothing indicating they were secret," said the source who declined to be named. "There were no stamps or confidential marks on these documents."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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