China denies involvement in Renault EV spy case; over $841k found in secret bank accounts?

Renault's zero-emissions lineup

The industrial espionage case involving three top Renault execs and electric vehicle secrets (and maybe China) continues, as the French carmaker has officially filed an accusation against a foreign private company. The company involved was not made public, but the filing does not cite a foreign power, according to Jean-Claude Marin, a Paris prosecutor, in Reuters. In fact, the French government began stepping away from rumors that China is involved with this industrial espionage case. Even still, a member of the conservative UMP party told France-Info radio that, "There are in effect several sources that are typically thought to be serious who consider that a Chinese buyer is in fact behind this operation." That buyer might be a Chinese power company, which French newspaper Le Figaro reported laundered at least 630,000 Euros (around $841,800 U.S.) into bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein opened by the executives. For its part, China has denied any involvement.

Prosecutor Marin must now make a decision to either oversee his own investigation or to open a judicial inquiry that will go before an independent magistrate. The French intelligence service, Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (DCRI), has also been looking into the case.

We still don't know the details of what was allegedly stolen, but Renault Chief Operating Officer Patrick Pelata tells Reuters that the company's key technology for electric vehicles is still safe. Nissan executive Carlos Tavares said he "completely trusts" Renault in handling the matter. The Renault-Nissan alliance has invested 4 billion euros ($5.17 billion) in electric vehicles.

The three senior Renault executives who have been suspended are denying their guilt. A lawyer for the highest-ranking of the three defendants notes, "He's shocked by it, let's be clear about it... He's going to clear his name." Another described his suspension as Kafkaesque, and that the men are reportedly still trying to figure out what they are being accused of. So are we.

[Sources: Reuters, Independent, Economic Times, The Wall Street Journal, Plug In Cars]

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