Renault executive denies spy claims

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A Renault executive suspected of spying on the French carmaker firmly denied Tuesday he had engaged in espionage and said he himself was the "victim" of a scandal he had no part in.

"Renault is making very serious accusations against me which I totally refute. The facts were outlined to me and I refute them as well," Michel Balthazard told reporters.

He made the denial after he was summoned to a meeting with Renault bosses along with two other senior managers suspected of industrial espionage reportedly involving the company's electric cars programme.

"Today, I consider myself the victim of an affair that is beyond me," said Balthazard, promising to cooperate with any investigation and insisting that during his 30 years in the company he had always been loyal.

Renault last week suspended the three executives over suspicions they had leaked strategic information.

Media reports and some French officials said the carmaker suspected that a Chinese company could have benefited from the leaked information, a charge which Beijing has angrily denied.

French government's spokesman Francois Baroin has insisted Paris is not pointing the finger at any country in the affair.

Le Figaro newspaper reported on Tuesday that a Chinese firm had paid undisclosed sums into Swiss and Liechtenstein bank accounts opened by two Renault executives implicated in the inquiry.

© 2011 AFP

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