EIB asks French diesel inquiry to probe Renault's use of loans

Fri Mar 24, 2017 10:01am EDT
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By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Investment Bank has asked French investigators to find out whether 800 million euros ($863 million) of EU-backed loans to Renault (RENA.PA: Quote) could have been used to develop test-cheating diesel engines, according to documents seen by Reuters.

The European Union lending arm wrote to judges leading a fraud investigation into preliminary findings that Renault diesel engines - like Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) - had been configured to manipulate nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions tests.

Renault, which has consistently denied breaking any laws or emissions rules, had no immediate comment on Friday. The Paris prosecutor's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Since 2009, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted more than 8 billion euros in preferential loans to back development of vehicles with lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by carmakers including VW, exposed in 2015 for using software "defeat devices" to dupe U.S. regulatory tests.

Technologies funded by the EIB have included diesel engines, because they emit less CO2 than gasoline equivalents. More recently, however, diesels have been shown to produce many times the legal limit of toxic NOx in real driving.

"The EIB has granted Renault several loans to finance projects including research and development to reduce vehicle CO2 emissions (amounting to more than 800 million euros)," the bank's chief fraud investigator told the French judges.

The Jan. 30 letter also proposes a follow-up meeting "in order to establish whether our financing is implicated in your investigations and to offer you all possible assistance."

It adds: "The EIB enforces a zero-tolerance policy towards fraud and corruption and strives to ensure that no illegal activity tarnishes its business."   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: An entrance sign is seen at French car manufacturer Renault's research centre, the Technocentre, in Guyancourt, near Paris, France, January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo