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Renault 'spy' to sue

2011-01-19 09:58
PARIS, France - Bertrand Rochette, one of three executives fired on suspicion of industrial espionage at Renault, is planning legal action against the French automaker for defamation.

Rochette, who was No.2 to vice-president of advanced engineering Michel Balthazard who was also fired, has said he is determined to defend himself after receiving his dismissal letter in the past few days.

Rochette's lawyer, Christian Charriere-Bournazel, said in a document seen by Reuters that "Bertrand Rochette... found out in the newspapers that he was the object of a complaint lodged with the Paris prosecutor about which he knew nothing."

Renault has not produced any evidence against Rochette, the lawyer said, and his client wanted his job back.

SUSPENDED ON SUSPICION

Renault was not available to comment. French state prosecutors launched an inquiry into industrial espionage at the automaker on January 14 after Renault filed a legal complaint alleging information had been passed to a foreign power, without saying which one.

The automaker had suspended the employees the previous week on suspicion they had leaked information about its high-profile electric-car technology.

Balthazard received his dismissal letter at the weekend, according to his lawyer, Xavier Thouvenin.

The letter accused Balthazard of passing on strategic information in exchange for bribes, an accusation Balthazard denies "categorically", Thouvenin said. The lawyer said Balthazard would take the matter to an industrial tribunal.

The third executive to be fired, Matthieu Tenenbaum, deputy head of Renault's electric-vehicle programme, has also received a dismissal letter and is considering his next move.

The French government has said the espionage case was economic warfare; Renault said it was the victim of an international network.
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