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Renault tries to justify risk of injustice in spying case

PARIS, Mar 30 – Renault number two Patrick Pelata sought to justify the wrongful sacking of three managers for alleged industrial espionage by saying the company must act swiftly "at the risk of injustice."

The French car giant quickly sacked the three managers in January, saying publicly it had proof they had been selling secrets on the electric technology which is expected to change the car industry.

The French government had branded the affair "economic warfare" and some pointed the finger at China, drawing an angry denial from Beijing.

But earlier this month, the firm apologised to the managers after it emerged police found no trace of bank accounts the accused men were alleged to have held and that the source of the spying allegations may have been a fraudster.

Three Renault security managers were detained, and one, Dominique Gevrey, remains in custody with the source of the allegations still a secret and the debacle an ongoing embarrassment for the company.

Renault "has the means neither of the judiciary nor of the police, but must protect itself as soon as the risk is high. At the risk of injustice," Pelata said in a message posted on Renault\’s intranet on March 17.

The CGT union made the message public on Wednesday, saying it showed Renault\’s "unacceptable" behaviour.

"The risk for Renault was great if the matter turned out to be true and… we acted based on intelligence that we could not double check," Renault\’s operations chief wrote.

"So we trusted our head of security without knowing that he himself had not sufficiently verified what his investigator was telling him," he said.

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"There is unfortunately no symmetry between trust and distrust within a company… we became distrustful concerning two then three managers who held key positions within the business."

"Renault personnel, especially in France and in engineering, are shaken," Pelata wrote, promising "an improvement in management practices."

The CGT slammed what it called an "unacceptable" attitude.

"You\’re saying nothing less than that a business is above the law and that it can make its own justice. This is very serious and unfortunately revelatory concerning your conception of the business," the union said.

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