The Romanian unit of Holcim Ltd., the world’s second-biggest cement maker, said about 15 million euros ($19. million) worth of European Union carbon-dioxide permits were stolen from its account.
“Unknown persons have stolen 1.6 million CO2 certificates,” Holcim said in a statement on its website yesterday. One million permits were transferred to an account in Liechtenstein and 600,000 were moved to a company with registries in Italy and the U.K., Holcim said.
Holcim has asked the EU, which oversees the emissions registries, to help it track the stolen permits and stop them from being traded. The European Union Allowances, or EUAs, have a unique identification number, and the stolen ones are listed on Holcim’s website.
EU permits for December rose 8 cents, or 0.5 percent to 14.84 euros a metric ton as of 5:30 p.m. on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange.
Holcim may not get the allowances back even if they are found, according to Owen Lomas, a consultant at Allen & Overy LLP’s climate change group. Tracking them may still be easy because of their identification, said Marius Frunza, the Paris- based head of structuring at Sagacarbon, a unit of French state- owned lender Caisse des Depots et Consignations.
“As we deal with an electronic closed system these EUAs could be tracked through the registry systems,” Frunza said in a statement, adding such fraud was common in the banking industry 10 years ago. “As a ubiquitous phenomena we might not see any change in confidence levels for this market.”
ICE Futures Europe, the London-based exchange that handles most EUA transactions, declined to comment on whether the permits have traded and if they would take any action. The Paris-based Bluenext exchange was unable to comment when reached by phone.
“The legal answer is not straightforward because we’re dealing with a range of jurisdictions” said London-based Lomas.
In English law, assuming they were treated as a type of property, the legal owner would usually get the allowances back, but in some countries, such as Germany, an “innocent buyer” may be entitled to keep the permits, he said.
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