German prosecutors expand Volkswagen emissions probe

Automotive - Mohit Shah - Jan 28,2017

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german prosecutors expand volkswagen emissions probe

On Friday, prosecutors in Germany said they are escalating their probes in the diesel car emissions scandal focused around automotive car giant, Volkswagen.

The German prosecutors said that the number of suspects are increasing and stated the possession of an evidence which can trouble former CEO Martin Winterkorn, as he may have known of the cheating well before he had previously claimed.

The prosecutor's office in Braunschweig situated near Volkswagen's Wolfsburg headquarters, also added that Winterkorn would be investigated on suspicion of fraud, outside an earlier focus on a probable securities-market violation.

The 69-year-old stepped down from his post in September 2015, days after the news circulated in the U.S. concerning Volkswagen's use of software which disabled emissions controls. Winterkorn then said, he was not aware of any offense on his part. This current announcement increases the legal stakes for the former head of Germany's biggest automaker. 

Last week, he testified before a parliamentary committee that he first received the term "defeat device," in September 2015, even though due to Volkswagen emissions test inconsistencies the U.S. authorities had been pressing the automaker for months.

Winterkorn's attorney did not instantly respond to an email seeking comment. On the other hand, Volkswagen said in a statement that the company is “cooperating fully" with the authorities but declined any further comments due to the ongoing investigations.

In a statement, prosecutors stated they have increased the count of suspects in their investigation involving VW from 21 to 37 persons. Moreover, a total of 28 locations including private homes and offices had been searched in Germany this week itself. The search operations were primarily in Braunschweig, Wolfsburg and the north German town of Gifhorn.

Recently, U.S. prosecutors have separately accused seven former Volkswagen employees. The company agreed to plead guilty for cheating the government and reached a $15 billion civil settlement in the U.S. with car owners and environmental authorities.