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France investigates Renault for suspected emissions fraud

media Renault is suspected of concealing high-polluting nitrous oxide emissions Reuters/Eric Gaillard/File photo

French investigators are to investigate carmaker Renault over suspected cheating in emissions tests on high-polluting diesel engines. The company's shares were trading 2.4 percent lower around 11.00GMT on Friday following the announcement by Paris prosecutors.

Renault shares slumped four percent to 82.56 euros in the first reaction to the news, recovering slightly to 84.16 euros during the course of Friday morning.

Three examining magistrates have been assigned to look into suspicions that the company cheated on emission tests for diesel engines making the vehicles dangerous for human or animal health, according to sources at the prosecutors office.

Dieselgate sparks French investigation

The accusation arises from tests on motor vehicles sold in France ordered by the government following 2015's Dieselgate scandal, in which Germany's Volkswagen was accused of emission tests fraud.

Investigators raided Renault's headquarters and two technical centres in January 2016, setting off a fall in the value of Renault shares at the time.

Tests found several Renault vehicles over the limit for nitrous oxyde emissions, because the company's criteria were allegedly less demanding than its competitors' and France's fraud office handed the results of its inquiry to legal authorities in November.

Renault denies any cheating, saying it has "always respected French and European law" and insisting that "our vehicles are not fitted with software for fraud of pollution rules".

Volkswagen pleads guilty, Chrysler charged

US officials said on Wednesday that Volkswagen will plead guilty to three criminal charges relating to emissions cheating and has agreed to pay 4.3 billion dollars (four billion euros) in fines.

The US Justice Department has also charged six of the company's executives, five of whom are believed to be in Germany while one was arrested in Miami on Saturday.

An inquiry into Volkswagen has been underway in France since February 2016.

Fiat-Chrysler has also fallen foul of US pollution controls.

The Italian-American company was charged on Thursday with hiding software in 104,000 diesel trucks sold in the US.

Britain's Transport Ministry on Friday said it would "urgently" seek information from the US authorities on the case and would test vehicles if necessary.

Fiat-Chrysler denies the charges and on Friday said it would not lower its targets of a 136-billion-euro turnover and a 4.7-5.5 billion-euro profit in 2018.

A French Senate report said that air pollution costs the country 100 billion euros a year and a 2016 study found it kills 48,000 people annually.

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