Renault spy allegation opens way for probe


French carmaker Renault accused a foreign private company of industrial espionage in an official filing that set the wheels in motion for a judicial investigation.

Jean-Claude Marin, the Paris prosecutor who will consider Renault’s allegations, said: “They don’t cite a foreign power, they only cite private persons.”

Renault said in its filing it was a victim of corruption, theft and concealment and had discovered serious misconduct detrimental to its “strategic, technological and intellectual assets” in its filing late on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Renault did not name any perpetrators or a company.

Last week Renault suspended three executives on suspicion they had leaked information about its high-profile electric car technology in a case the French government has dubbed “economic warfare” and which has prompted a move to tighten laws to protect companies.

The carmaker’s formal complaint puts the matter into the hands of the French judiciary and could lead to an investigation by France’s DCRI domestic intelligence agency.

The espionage scandal threatened to harm improving relations between France and China, after a government source last week said intelligence services were looking into a possible connection to China.

The French government has since played down the possibility of a link to China, saying it is not accusing any one country of involvement, while China has denied any link to the case.
“I can tell you that many nationalities have been mentioned in this dossier,” said Renault’s lawyer Jean Reinhart, noting that the complaint did not cite foreign countries.

Reinhart, a specialist in corporate and social law, was part of a team representing French bank Societe Generale in last year’s high-profile trial of rogue trader Jerome Kerviel.

He told Reuters a complaint against “persons unknown” was used when the identities of all those involved in a complaint were not necessarily known.
“You’re saying, ‘this is what I have possibly identified … but you’re saying perhaps there are more people to be discovered,” he said.

Reinhart added: “I think we’re in for a preliminary investigation which could take a relatively long time. It’s a very complicated dossier … we’re talking about months.”