* Three executives have received dismissal letters
* State prosecutor has launched inquiry
PARIS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Bertrand Rochette, one of three executives fired on suspicion of industrial espionage at Renault (RENA.PA) plans legal action against the French carmaker for defamation, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Rochette, who was number two to the former vice president of advanced engineering Michel Balthazard, also fired in the affair, has said he was determined to defend himself after receiving his dismissal letter in the past few days. “Bertrand Rochette ... found out in the newspapers that he was the object of a complaint lodged with the Paris prosecutor about which he knew nothing,” Rochette’s lawyer, Christian Charriere-Bournazel, said in a document seen by Reuters. Renault has not produced any evidence against Rochette, the lawyer said, adding his client wanted to be reinstated.
Renault was not available to comment. French state prosecutors launched an inquiry into industrial espionage at the carmaker on Friday after Renault filed a legal complaint alleging information had been passed to a foreign power, without saying which one. [ID:nLDE70D27X]
The carmaker suspended the employees the previous week on suspicion they had leaked information about its high-profile electric car technology.
Balthazard received his dismissal letter at the weekend, according to his lawyer, Xavier Thouvenin.
The letter accused Balthazard of passing on strategic information in exchange for bribes, an accusation Balthazard denies “categorically”, Thouvenin said. The lawyer said Balthazard would take the matter to an industrial tribunal.
The third executive to be fired, Matthieu Tenenbaum, deputy head of Renault’s electric vehicle programme, has also received his dismissal letter and is considering his next move, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
The French government has said the espionage case was economic warfare, while Renault has said it was the victim of an organised international network. (Reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Writing by James Regan and Dan Lalor)