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China denies Renault spy link

2011-01-11 14:28
China denied any link to the industrial espionage scandal at French carmaker Renault, dismissing reports that French intelligence services were investigating the possibility as "baseless".

A French government source said last week a possible Chinese connection was being explored but had not been substantiated, after Renault suspended three executives suspected of leaking information on its electric vehicle program.

"We have noticed the relevant reports," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing on Tuesday. "We think that some people saying that China is behind this case is totally baseless and irresponsible."

French government spokesman Francois Baroin said on Tuesday France was not accusing any country of involvement.

"There is no official accusation by France and the French government toward any country today. An inquiry is under way," Baroin told Europe 1 radio. "Renault, like others, is the victim of a war of economic intelligence."

Relations between France and China hit a low two years ago when French President Nicolas Sarkozy criticized China's policy on Tibet.

A visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Paris late last year helped repair ties as France seeks to secure Chinese support for reform of the global monetary system under its presidency of the Group of 20 club of economic powers.

The Financial Times reported that Renault had uncovered evidence of suspect financial transactions involving bank accounts in Switzerland.

The three Renault executives were expected to meet management on Tuesday, according to French media reports that cited unions.

Renault, 15% owned by the French state, declined to comment.

The electric vehicle program that they are suspected of leaking information on is a key plank of the carmaker's strategy in which, together with its Japanese partner Nissan, it is investing billions of euros.

International network

Renault Chief Operating Officer Patrick Pelata has said the carmaker was the victim of an organized international network, without making any reference to China.

He said vital electric vehicle technology was safe and production of the cars would not be affected. Renault was set to launch its first electric cars - the Fluence and the Kangoo - later this year.


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