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09 December 2023

France top culprit in European industrial espionage


France is the country that conducts the most industrial espionage on other European countries, even ahead of China and Russia, said leaked US diplomatic cables quoted on Tuesday by Norway's Aftenposten.

"French espionage is so widespread that the damages (it causes) the German economy are larger as a whole than those caused by China or Russia," an undated note from the US embassy in Berlin said, according to a Norwegian translation by Aftenposten.

The Norwegian daily of reference said last month it had obtained all the 250,000 US diplomatic cables WikiLeaks had accessed and would publish stories based on them independently of the whistleblowing website's own releases.

Its Tuesday article based on leaked cables included an October 2009 comment from Berry Smutny, the head of German satellite company OHB Technology, quoted in the diplomatic note.

"France is the Empire of Evil in terms of technology theft, and Germany knows it," a Norwegian translation of Smutny's comment in the cable read.

OHB Technology became known to the general public in January 2010 when it obtained a contract for the construction of several satellites for the Galileo satellite navigation system, a much-delayed European challenger to the American-developed Global Positioning System (GPS).

The small German firm won the bid for the contract over Astrium, a subsidiary of pan-European giant EADS.

A leaked US cable posted Monday by Aftenposten described Franco-German competition in terms of spy satellite development.

The cable said Germany was developing, with the help of the US, its own High Resolution Optical Satellite System (HiROS), despite the objections of France, which is leading pan-European efforts in the field with its Helios satellites.