FRANCE: Minister urges tougher industrial espionage defence as Renault affair rumbles on
French industry minister Eric Besson says the country must beef up its defences against industrial espionage as the Renault affair continues to rock France.
In comments sent to just-auto by Besson's office that the Minister made to French television station LCI, it is clear the alleged espionage affair has gone right to the top of French politics.
It appears more than 100 French Parliamentary deputies from the UMP party have put forward a motion to toughen laws against industrial espionage, with Besson promising he will give it his full attention.
"We are going to talk to the deputies to see what we can do, but at the heart of this, will we have to strengthen our protection that exists, we are not talking about a clean slate, but do we have to reinforce protection in the battle of innovation and industrial espionage?
"The response is very clearly yes, and I have already given [unspecified] services some advice so that the State is firmer on the subject."
What the 'services' Besson is referring to is unclear. Widespread reports in France speculate the country's secret service - the Direction Central du Renseignement Interieur (DCRI) has become involved, although Renault itself is declining to comment.
Speculation has also raised the possibility of Chinese involvement, although apparent previous comments from a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing noted: "The accusations are baseless and irresponsible, and the Chinese side cannot accept them." The Industry Minister is also distancing himself from any Chinese element: "At the heart of government, we have never evoked such a possibility," he said.
Besson also raised the tantalising prospect he knows more than he can say publicly, having met Renault's chief operating officer Patrick Pelata this week.
"I know a certain number of things in private, as I met Renault COO Pelata, who explained a certain number of things. Now there is a procedure that has been launched, there is a complaint.
"Now, justice will start and I imagine there will be further clarifications."
Besson's comments come in a week of frenzied speculation in France that has seen Renault launch a judicial investigation into industrial espionage alleging corruption, theft and concealment.
The move to file the complaint follows the suspension of three employees last week who it claims have 'deliberately endangered the company's assets.'
Media are reporting the three's denial of any involvement.