French firm fooled by phone scam

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2011, 12:00am


Even the mighty can fall for a simple telephone scam, it seems.

One of the world's leading players in nuclear energy, French conglomerate Areva, is trying to sue a Hong Kong company to retrieve more than HK$10.5 million it lost to a fraudster.

In a writ filed in the High Court on Tuesday and made available to the press yesterday, Areva claims the funds were transferred to a Hong Kong firm called Golden Longon, on January 14 last year - all because of a single, convincing phone call.

On that day, Areva's then chief executive Yves Lapierre received a phone call from a man posing as a police inspector in France. The 'inspector', who spoke perfect, accent-free French, told Lapierre he was investigating a credit card scam involving an Areva employee.

He said Lapierre needed to transfer Euro982,000 (HK$10.4 million) to Golden Longon to help the French police track down the credit card ring in Hong Kong. He gained the executive's trust by citing information about Lapierre's whereabouts and the first digit of his credit card.

Lapierre became suspicious only after he approved the fund transfer. He asked Areva's security department to verify the identity of the caller, which it was unable to do. Lapierre resigned in February last year, citing personal reasons.

Areva filed the High Court writ after it was unable to get a bank in Hong Kong to return the funds last month.

Its writ calls Golden Longon a dummy company set up solely to carry out the scam, saying Areva has been unable to reach anyone at the Hong Kong firm. The South China Morning Post was unable to reach anyone at the company yesterday. Areva wants the court to order the return of the Euro982,000 plus interest.