20110113 general view of french car maker renault 18
General view of French car maker Renault headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt, west of Paris. - 


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: China's denied any involvement in an industrial espionage scandal involving the French car maker Renault. Three executives were suspended by the company last week on suspicion of leaking information about its multi-billion dollar electric car program.

The BBC's Rebecca Singer reports.

REBECCA SINGER: The French government says it's not accusing any particular country but that Renault has been a victim of an "economic intelligence war" which it takes very seriously. Renault, along with its Japanese partner Nissan, is at the forefront of developing technology for electric cars. And China is behind in the race for electric vehicle technology.

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei looked at the press reports and says there's nothing to them...

HONG LEI: We believe that the accusations that China is behind this case are utterly baseless and irresponsible.

This is such a big scandal that the French secret service has been told to investigate. One lead that's emerged is a possible link to a Chinese power company which the French media reckons has been paying undisclosed sums into bank accounts opened by two of the Renault executives. The company is due to file legal complaints later today.

In London, I'm the BBC's Rebecca Singer for Marketplace.