Renault says spy scandal put assets at risk

City A.M. Reporter
THE SCANDAL over suspected industrial espionage at Renault has deepened as the French carmaker warned company assets were at risk and France's industry minister called the matter serious.

Renault suspended three executives on Monday, including a member of its management committee, after an "ethical alert" was sent to the group's compliance committee in August.

Renault's general counsel and compliance officer has said the matter concerned people in "extremely strategic" positions.

"This investigation, which lasted several months, enabled us to identify a body of converging evidence demonstrating that three group employees have committed misconduct that infringes Renault's ethics, consciously and deliberately endangering the company's assets," the officer said.

Sources said yesterday that the company is worried its flagship electric vehicle programme, in which Renault with its partner Nissan is investing €4bn (£3.4bn), might be threatened.

Renault's new strategic plan, due to be unveiled in February, is expected to focus strongly on electric vehicles, as well as synergies with Nissan and emerging market growth.

French Industry Minister Eric Besson told RTL radio the matter was serious.

"It illustrates once again the risks our companies face in terms of industrial espionage and economic intelligence, as we call it today," Besson said.

The French government owns a 15 per cent stake in Renault.