Renault heirs challenge 1945 company seizure

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Heirs of the founder of French auto giant Renault are suing the state for seizing the company from their grandfather, after he was branded a Nazi collaborator, and nationalising it in 1945.

"The confiscation order goes against the basic principles of property law" under international human rights conventions, Thierry Levy, a lawyer acting for eight of the grandchildren of the late industrialist Louis Renault, told AFP.

Levy said he had launched a constitutional challenge on behalf of the eight under a new judicial procedure introduced last year and the heirs may demand compensation.

Louis Renault founded what is now one of France's biggest car makers with his brothers in 1898. During the Nazi occupation the company was placed under German control and used to make equipment for German forces.

Louis Renault died in jail weeks after Paris was liberated from the Nazis, before he could be tried for collaboration, and the firm was promptly nationalised.

Le Monde newspaper said that judicial documents from the time cast doubt on whether the state had the right to seize the company after the suspect's death. Levy said damages could be sought if the move is found to be unconstitutional.

Renault declined to comment.

© 2011 AFP

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