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Renault Industrial “Spy” Case Is Falling Apart

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Renault

Renault Industrial “Spy” Case Is Falling Apart

VOA Breaking News
Voice of America
March 8, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Allegations of high-level industrial spying at French carmaker Renault now appear to be falling apart.

Two months ago, the automaker made international headlines by firing three executives, accusing them of divulging key details about the development of all-electric cars. The French industrial chief said his country was the target of “economic war.” Investigators hinted that “the Chinese” were behind the alleged industrial espionage, a charge China said was “baseless and irresponsible.”

Since then, the company has come up with little proof of corporate spying and says there are doubts about the allegations. Some say the automaker may have been too hasty in making the allegations and that it may have been the victim of an unexplained hoax.

Renault's chief operating officer, Patrick Pelata, says that if the ongoing investigation shows that the company was duped, high-level corporate officials would have to take the blame. He says that includes himself.

The investigation was triggered by anonymous allegations sent last August to Renault officials. After a five-month investigation, Renault suspended and then fired the three officials, a top manager, Michel Balthazard, and two officials who worked him, Matthieu Tenenbaum and Bertrand Rochette.

All three have denied the charges. It remains a mystery who first made the allegations and who supposedly bought the secrets about the Renault electric car plans.

The dismissed executives have brought defamation suits against the carmaker, which is 15 percent owned by the French government. Economy Minister Christine Lagarde says that if the allegations prove unfounded, then the dismissed executives should be paid damages.

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