As Volkswagen Group’s emission scandal settles down in the United States, things in Europe remain unresolved. German police raided the headquarters of Volkswagen and Audi as part of the never-ending investigations into the company’s diesel cheating.
The German blitz was carefully orchestrated as investigators simultaneously hit Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt, the corporate offices at its Neckarsulm plant, and VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg. Separate spokesmen from VW and Audi confirmed the raids, both adding they’re cooperating with authorities.
It’s assumed officials were seeking materials to indict high-ranking executives. Munich prosecutors explained their impromptu visits were part of an ongoing investigation over the sale of 80,000 Audi diesels in the United States between 2009 and 2015 — in which Audi already admitted installing defeat devices. The European raids were not linked to vehicles sold within Germany.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported authorities arrived in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm at around 7 a.m. in midst of Audi’s preparations for its annual earnings press conference. While offices and private apartments were searched, an Audi spokesman was careful to point out the residence of CEO Rupert Stadler was not subject to the investigation.
While VW Group was forced to pay billions in damages and penalties in the United States, employees were largely spared any criminal prosecution. The public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig seems interested in changing that, focusing their investigation specifically on finding the people responsible for the defeat devices and uncovering if Audi knowingly destroyed evidence after coming under legal scrutiny.
“With these search orders we aim to clarify in particular who was involved in deploying the technology concerned and in the provision of false information to third parties,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Wednesday.
Of course, Audi is cleaning house as well. Last month, the company said that it had fired four engineers from its diesel division due to a “gross breach of duty.” One of those employees had accused the CEO of being involved in the deception.
“The path towards clearing up [the emissions scandal] is far from over,” Stadler said at Wednesday’s earnings conference. “We will keep at it until this work is done.” The company then announced a 37-percent loss in operating profit to 3.1 billion euros for 2016, reducing its return on sales to 5.1 percent from 8.3 percent a year earlier.