Renault spy scandal culprits must be sacked: French minister

11th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The French government, which owns 15-percent of Renault, said Monday that those responsible for an embarrassing industrial espionage debacle at the "dysfunctional" car-maker should be sacked.

"If mistakes have been made, those who are responsible must go if the extent of their mistakes justifies it," Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told France Inter radio.

Her comments came as Renault held an extraordinary board meeting to study an audit committee's report on the scandal that saw three top executives wrongfully accused of selling industrial secrets.

A company spokesman said the meeting had ended but no statement would be made until after the Paris stock market closed at 1530 GMT.

Lagarde said the report showed that the company's management style was "dysfunctional" and revealed the need for both a "revision of the governance rules and for sanctions."

Industry Minister Eric Besson said it was up to Renault to decide if its chief executive Carlos Ghosn stays in his job but that the carmaker's management style, which he also called dysfunctional, had to change.

"The audit reaches the conclusion that four persons should be punished," he told reporters.

A report Sunday in French newspaper Journal Du Dimanche said Renault's chief operating officer Patrick Pelata, legal affairs chief Christian Husson and its human resources and security chiefs may resign after Monday's meeting.

Lagarde said Monday she had instructed state representatives on the company's board to support the recommendations of the audit report.

Ghosn went on prime-time television last month to apologise "personally and in Renault's name" for the affair, but said he had turned down an offer by his number two, operations chief Pelata, to resign.

The French car giant sacked the three managers in January, saying publicly it had proof they had been selling secrets on the electric technology which is expected to change the car industry.

The government branded the affair "economic warfare" and some pointed the finger at China, drawing an angry denial from Beijing.

But in March the firm apologised to the managers after it emerged police had found no trace of bank accounts the accused men were alleged to have held and that the source of the spying allegations may have been a fraudster.

Renault and its Japanese partner Nissan have staked their future on electric vehicles and plan to launch several models by 2014 to meet rapidly rising demand for more environmentally friendly methods of transport.

They have invested four billion euros in the programme.

Nissan and Renault joined forces in 1999. Renault currently owns a 44.3 percent stake in its Japanese partner, while Nissan holds 15 percent of the French auto maker's shares.

© 2011 AFP

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