US emissions scandal: lawsuits against even more VW employees

19:10  23 september  2020
19:10  23 september  2020 Source:   handelsblatt.com

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Vor fast genau fünf Jahren flog der «Dieselgate»-Skandal am 18. September 2015 durch Nachforschungen von US-Umweltbehörden und Wissenschaftlern auf. © picture alliance / Julian Stratenschulte / dpa Almost exactly five years ago, the “Dieselgate” scandal was discovered on September 18, 2015 as a result of investigations by US environmental authorities and scientists.

From 11 to 19: The Brunswick public prosecutor has indicted other Volkswagen employees in dealing with the diesel scandal. Overall, the number of accused increases by another eight.

As the investigators explained, the recent expansion also involves some executives. The prosecutors did not mention any names. The investigations into excessive emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) are now directed in total against 93 previous and current people from the group, the German press agency learned from the authority.

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In the case of ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn and four other managers, the Braunschweig Regional Court has now approved the indictment after a long examination and interim differences with the public prosecutor. You will soon have to face, among other things, the charge of commercial and gang fraud. When the process starts is still open. In January, the agency had completed indictments against six other people.

With the current expansion of the NOx process, the investigators assume that the accused "in their respective responsible position" promoted, supported or at least supported the installation of the manipulation software in VW diesel cars between November 2006 and September 2015, or at least despite knowledge of the illegality have not prevented ». It is about suspected, partly serious fraud, false certification and competition violations as well as partly breach of trust and tax evasion or aiding and abetting. Volkswagen did not comment because the group itself is no longer a party in the Braunschweig criminal proceedings.

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According to the public prosecutor's office, the persons concerned are now 50 to 72 years old. The fall of 2006, in which the targeted deceptions are said to have started, falls at a time when VW wanted to catch up with its competitors in the difficult US market. A major marketing offensive for “clean diesel” was intended to attract more customers. It later emerged that instead of using more expensive exhaust technology, the company was falsifying measured values ​​with the help of hidden software codes. These ensured that tests were fully cleaned, but that many times the emissions occurred in road traffic.

Almost exactly five years ago, the scandal was exposed on September 18, 2015 through investigations by US environmental agencies and scientists. Winterkorn resigned, VW plunged into the worst crisis in its history, billions in legal costs and damaged consumer confidence were the result. While civil law compensation for diesel drivers is now progressing step by step in Germany too, many criminal law questions about the origin and responsibility relating to "Dieselgate" have not yet been finally clarified.

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In the more than 1200 page complaint, the prosecutors describe the fraud strategy they are pursuing: they wanted to "simulate" as little nitrogen oxide as possible on the test bench for diesel with the EA 189 engine, whereas the soot concentration and engine noise are still relatively high here were allowed to.

The exact opposite is said to have been sought on the road: higher NOx values ​​that no inspector could determine, but with which at the same time lower noise and soot were "bought". So-called shut-off devices for parts of the exhaust gas purification, which are permitted in certain areas to protect engine components, are often also referred to as "acoustic functions" because of the reduced noise.

According to the prosecutor's office, the calculation of those responsible at the time: If the US diesel had not been made to appear so low in pollutants and so quiet on the road, they would have been “unsuitable for customers”. But as it was, VW was able to comply with the limit values ​​“at least on paper”. Excessive pursuit of profit is said to have been a central motive for consumer fraud. Some of the accused also benefited personally and directly from the increased sales through bonuses. "A technically more complex and more expensive engine that complies with emissions standards would have sold poorly."

In the case of Winterkorn, the Braunschweig Regional Court sees a sufficient likelihood that he could be convicted of fraud in a commercial and gang manner. That is why it recently allowed the main proceedings to be opened. At first the prosecutors “only” wanted him to commit serious fraud. You are now of the opinion, however, that “buyers of certain vehicles from the Volkswagen Group were misled about their properties, in particular about the use of a so-called cut-off device in the engine control software”.

The competent chamber rejected some other points from the original application. However, the ex-VW boss also has to defend himself against the accusation of market manipulation due to too late informing investors after the exhaust scandal broke up. A possible start of the process has not yet been decided.

The richest 1% emit more than the poorest half of the population .
© Provided by Le Point Oxfam, environment, emissions The observation is clear. According to a report by Oxfam , the richest 1% in the world emit twice as many greenhouse gases as the poorest half of the population. The NGO calls for "social and climate justice", in particular by including this notion in the economic recovery plans of countries after the coronavirus. The period analyzed extends from 1990 to 2015.

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