PARIS, France - Renault's chief operating officer Patrick Pelata has resigned after taking the flak for an embarrassing fiasco that started as a probe into suspected industrial espionage case and became a fraud caseRenault fired three executives in January, saying its high-profile electric-vehicle project had been targeted by an international spy network. Later it admitted being tricked - the men did nothing wrong and there was no spying. The company, 15% owned by the French state, accepted Pelata's resignation at an extraordinary board meeting convened to discuss the findings of an audit into the scandal.Morgan Stanley analyst Stuart Pearson said Pelata's departure was a loss to Renault, although investors would not be surprised, and the fact that Carlos Ghosn was staying on as chief executive would limit the effect on shares.'A SOLID JOB'Ghosn is also chief executive of Renault's Japanese alliance partner Nissan. Renault said Pelata would be given an unspecified role within the Renault-Nissan alliance."Pelata as COO did a solid job of guiding Renault through the last few years," Pearson said, adding that his departure could hamper the new strategic plan Renault unveiled in February."It does call into question the execution of the strategic plan that has only just been announced - Pelata would have been a key architect of that. It's not immediately obvious who could replace him."Renault shares closed down 2.2 percent before Renault confirmed Pelata's resignation.A number of other senior executives have been relieved of their functions, including senior executive staff manager Jean-Yves Coudriou, head of the legal department Christian Husson and secretary-general Laurence Dors.PAYING THE BILLRenault security officials Remi Paigne, Marc Tixador and Dominique Gevrey -- now accused of fraud in the case -- were expected to leave the company, Renault said.Renault has also created an ethics committee, restructured its compliance committee and will overhaul and modernise its security department, the company said.Pelata had long been seen as the likely candidate to take the fall for the debacle. He tendered his resignation about a month ago, when Renault apologised to the three wrongly-fired executives and said it would compensate and offer to reinstate them.Ghosn refused to accept his No.2's departure at the time, saying he "didn't want to add one crisis to another". Instead, he and Pelata pledged to forgo their 2010 bonuses and profits from 2011 stock options. A source close to the company told Reuters that Ghosn and Pelata's bonus and stock option concessions should be enough to cover the compensation.Pelata, seen as Ghosn's right-hand man, holds engineering degrees from two of France's top engineering schools as well as a PhD in socio-economics. He joined Renault in 1984 as a workshop manager at the Flins plant near Paris and rose swiftly through the ranks, becoming a member of the Renault management committee in 1998.Pelata met Ghosn at university, but their different styles belie their long history. Pelata, with his sharp suits and rectangular spectacles, is soft-spoken while Ghosn's oratorical style shows he relishes the reputation as a car industry guru earned by transforming Nissan from a money-loser into a success story.