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March 16, 2011updated 08 Apr 2021 8:09am

FRANCE: Industry Minister welcomes Renault apology in spy affair

A French government minister has welcomed the apology by Renault to its three sacked employees following their exoneration in the alleged industrial espionage affair.

A French government minister has welcomed the apology by Renault to its three sacked employees following their exoneration in the alleged industrial espionage affair.

Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn gave his apology to Michel Balthazard, Bertrand Rochette and Mathieu Tenenbaum, who were wrongly accused of industrial espionage, following an extraordinary board meeting in Paris this week, a move welcomed by Industry Minister Eric Besson.

“It’s ‘good’ the head of Renault has given his public apology,” Besson said on French radio station RTL. “Who are the real guilty and responsible ones? Neither you nor me know at this time.

“What Carlos Ghosn said was very important – it’s an indispensable step and he did well moreover, in declining a large part of his salary, but it’s not the end of the internal story.”

Besson was making reference to the Renault chief’s confirmation he would forego a EUR1.6m (US$2.2m) bonus and not take any stock options this year.

Repeatedly pressed on French television station TF1 whether he would resign following the spy scandal that has also involved France’s security service, the DCRI, Ghosn noted:

“A boss of a business, when he is confronted with a crisis, asks himself a deep question. Am I an attraction for a business.”

Ghosn was also asked about his decision to refuse Renault chief operating officer Patrick Pelata’s offer of resignation.

“I took this decision in the interests of Renault,” he said. “I did not want to add a crisis to a crisis.”

Earlier in the saga that has occupied French headlines for the best part of three months, there had been a suggestion one of the sacked executives, Bertrand Rochette, had set up a Swiss bank account – a possibility he vehemently denied as “incredible.”

The Swiss trail may be hotting up again however, as French daily Le Figaro quoting satirical publication Le Canard Enchaine, has reported a part of the money Renault paid to obtain information has been partially recovered in a Swiss account opened by one of its security officials.

This official, adds Le Figaro, is now being investigated for ‘organised fraud’ after being allegedly arrested at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris en route for Guinea in West Africa.

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