Renault apology for sacked employees it accused of espionage

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Renault has had to make a hugely embarrassing climbdown and issue a public 'excusez-moi' to three employees it sacked amid accusations of leaking sensitive materials.

The French equivalent of MI5, the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence, was brought in to conduct an investigation amid concerns that Renault's electric vehicle technology was being stolen by the Chinese.

Yesterday Renault boss Carlos Ghosn called an emergency meeting of the manufacturer's board, at which he revealed the three employees – including the now former vice-president of advanced engineering who had worked for the company for 30 years – had been completely exonerated.

They will be offered their jobs back as three members of Renault's security division face a fraud investigation by French police.

It emerged following the meeting that Ghosn's second-in-command Patrick Pélata offered his resignation to the Renault boss, which was turned down.

Ghosn, Pélata and other senior bosses involved in the spy scandal debacle have handed back their bonuses for 2010 and won't receive anything in 2011 either, in a bid to try and restore public confidence in the French firm.

Changes have already been made to Renault's management structure, and Ghosn has ordered an immediate review into the company's lines of governance.

A statement from Renault said: "Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Patrick Pélata, Chief Operating Officer, present their sincere apologies and regrets, personally and in the name of Renault, to Messrs Balthazard, Rochette and Tenenbaum, who were wrongly accused in this affair. They are committed that reparations be made to the three executives, and that their honor in the public eye be restored."

Ghosn and Pélata have also indicated that they will meet the three men personally.