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Renault Suspends Executives In Industrial Espionage Case

Fri, 01/14/2011 - 3:29am
Greg Keller, Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — Renault said Thursday it has filed a criminal complaint in connection with a suspected case of industrial espionage at the French car maker that has rocked France's industrial sector.

The complaint "against persons unknown" follows Renault's discovery of "serious misconduct detrimental to the company" and in particular to its "strategic, technological and intellectual assets," the car maker said in a statement.

Renault's complaint is for acts constituting organized industrial espionage, corruption, breach of trust, theft and concealment, the company said.

Renault suspended three executives last week after an internal investigation begun last August found they had "deliberately and consciously threatened" company assets.

The scandal has caused French industry minister Eric Besson to talk openly of "economic warfare" being waged on one of France's leading industrial giants.

Renault has not disclosed any evidence it may have to back up the complaint. It said it would "reserve the items in its posession exclusively for" investigators.

The company's chief operating officer said in an interview with Le Monde last week that an "organized, international network" had obtained information on its flagship electric car program, including its architecture, costs and economic model.

Sensitive, proprietary technological information on Renault's electric cars was not compromised by the espionage, Patrick Pelata said in the interview.

Renault and its alliance partner Nissan Motor Co. have invested $4 billion to develop electric cars, and defending the cars' technology from rivals is considered crucial to the car maker's push to enter this fast-growing market segment.

Renault has not publicly identified the executives it suspended.

It is now up to judicial authorities to determine whether to open an investigation.

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