Renault Fluence ZE production electric sedanEnlarge Photo
Every good spy film has a smattering of illicit love, sexy cars and covert operations. Suspending disbelief, such films make for good entertainment. But for one former Renault employee the real world has taken a turn towards the covert world of James Bond or 24 with accusations that he had an offshore bank account to handle payment for plans he allegedly stole from the French car giant.
A little under four weeks ago the french automaker suspended three of its executives without pay after claiming they had sold secrets of the joint Nissan/Renault electric car program to “new players from emerging countries.”
The men were charged, dismissed and investigations are still underway into the source of the leaked plans. But while Nissan/Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn publicly told U.K.-based Sky News that it was “too early to start to point fingers.”
But one of the three men, former head of Renault’s upstream vehicle development program Betrand Rochette, is filing a deformation lawsuit after being taken to Switzerland by case investigators in a move that would make 24’s fictitious CTI gun-toting agent Jack Bauer proud.
2010 Renault DeZir ConceptEnlarge Photo
“I went to Switzerland on Tuesday, Jan. 4 with two people from Renault security,” Rochette told a press conference in Paris yesterday. “We stayed in Switzerland for 24 hours so I could see this so-called bank, go myself to verify who could have opened an account in my name, if there was an account. I neither knew the name of the bank nor saw tangible proof.”
Describing the trip as a way to “make me talk,” Rochette told the assembled members of the press that he has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Renault after it has yet failed to publicly prove his involvement in any espionage.
So how did Rochette’s name get involved with charges of industrial espionage?
Renault’s initial anonymous tip-off came from an unnamed source, citing the two other dismissed men as being the recipients of money in exchange for confidential data about making electric cars affordable. It wasn’t until the subsequent investigation started that Rochette’s name came up.
Renault Twizy ConceptEnlarge Photo
Is Rochette involved? He claims not and for now, no evidence has been publicly cited to convict him.
While Ghosn is keen to point out that the case will not affect Nissan or Renault’s electric car program, Rochette is now focused on clearing his name, saying “That’s not my field. I’m determined not to be made the scapegoat.”
Perhaps our opinion of the whole debacle can be best described by Shakespeare’s Fabian in Twelfth Night: “If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”
Fiction or not, we’re sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of the ever-thickening plot.