BERLIN — Volkswagen staff members are under investigation for tax evasion in a case linked to the German company’s massive emissions cheating scandal, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Public prosecutor Birgit Seel told AFP that her Brunswick, Germany, office had launched the probe this week against “five VW employees” at the group’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. She declined to comment on their job titles or areas of responsibility, but said the investigation was tied to the pollution test affair.
The same prosecutor’s office had launched an investigation earlier this month into allegations that Volkswagen lied about the carbon dioxide emissions of up to 800,000 cars.
The carmaker has admitted to fitting 11 million diesel engines worldwide with sophisticated software designed to skew the results of pollution tests for nitrogen oxide emissions. That admission has triggered both regulatory and criminal investigations in several countries, including Germany and the United States, with VW facing the risk of having to pay billions in fines.
As mentioned numerous times here at IndustryWeek and throughout the global media, the so-called “defeat devices” turn on pollution controls when a car is undergoing testing, and off when it is back on the road, allowing it to spew out harmful levels of nitrogen oxide.
Volkswagen has subsequently revealed that beyond the nitrogen oxide scam, it had also understated carbon dioxide emissions, including in gas cars. The company — whose divisions include Audi, SEAT and Skoda, as well as its truck and commercial vehicles — now faces the sizeable task of recalling 8.5 million vehicles throughout Europe.
Volkswagen car sales fell 5.3% in October as the pollution cheating storm hit European demand. Deliveries slipped 1.3% in western Europe compared to a year ago, with weakening demand seen in Germany, Spain and Italy.
Global sales, however, were lifted by its biggest market: China, where deliveries rose 1.8% to 233,500 cars for the month.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015