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Claim China behind Renault spying [The Age/Telegraph]


Claim China behind Renault spying
Henry Samuel and Graham Ruddick
Telegraph
Source – The Age, published January 9, 2011

PRESIDENT Nicolas Sarkozy of France has ordered his country’s intelligence service to probe whether China is behind suspected industrial espionage at Renault.

While a judicial inquiry has not been launched, a source at the Elysee Palace said the DCRI, France’s intelligence agency, was ”investigating a Chinese link” after the French car maker suspended three senior executives for ”very serious faults”.

The three Renault workers, one of whom is on the company’s management committee, were removed after an investigation into the leaking of secrets about the company’s electric vehicle program.

Renault has said industrial espionage poses a serious threat to its ”strategic assets”.

France’s Industry Minister, Eric Besson, said the country was facing ”economic war” over the case of Renault, which is 15 per cent French-owned. A presidential source said the French government had warned of an ”overall risk” to French industry.

Electric and hybrid cars are set to dominate the automotive industry agenda over the next decade as consumers turn to low-carbon and fuel-efficient travel.

Together with its Japanese ally Nissan, Renault has invested €4 billion ($A5.2 billion) in electric cars and is due to release several models over the next three years.

According to sources within Renault, it is thought a Chinese rival was the final recipient of the data. ”We cannot accept that an innovation financed by the French taxpayer ends up in the hands of the Chinese,” said an Industry Ministry source.

Bernard Carayon, an MP for the ruling UMP party and a specialist in economic intelligence, told Le Figaro that China was the prime suspect. ”The suspicions are effectively going that way,” he said.

The leaked information reportedly relates to the technology in still unreleased cars’ battery and engine. The three executives allegedly sold patents that were completed but not yet registered, representing hundreds of millions of dollars in research.

According to weekly magazine Le Point, the three men were approached by a French subcontractor that served as an intermediary with the Chinese. They received payments in foreign bank accounts, the magazine reported.

”This is a classic case of espionage,” an intelligence source told Le Point. ”The Chinese are old hands at this. They are on the offensive once again.”

One of the three suspended executives, Mathieu Tenenbaum, said on Friday that he was ”stunned” by the spy allegations. ”He does not understand what’s happening to him,” a statement said.

TELEGRAPH

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Filed under: Automotive, Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Economics, France, Influence, International Relations, Trade

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