Edmonton Journal, May 13, 2011

Renault heirs sue France

Heirs of the founder of French auto giant Renault are suing the state for seizing the company from their grandfather, after he was branded a Nazi collaborator, and nationalizing it in 1945.

“The confiscation order goes against the basic principles of property law” under international human rights conventions, said Thierry Levy, a lawyer acting for eight of the grandchildren of the late industrialist Louis Renault.

Levy said he had launched a constitutional challenge on behalf of the eight under a new judicial procedure introduced last year and the heirs may demand compensation.

Louis Renault founded what is now one of France’s biggest carmakers with his brothers in 1898. During the Nazi occupation the company was placed under German control and used to make equipment for German forces.

Louis Renault died in jail weeks after Paris was liberated from the Nazis, before he could be tried for collaboration, and the firm was promptly nationalized.

Le Monde newspaper said judicial documents from the time cast doubt on whether the state had the right to seize the company after the suspect’s death. Levy said damages could be sought if the move is found to be unconstitutional.

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