VW focus of US Justice Department criminal probe: reports
The US Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation of Volkswagen after the German automaker admitted it systematically violated US air pollution tests, media reported Monday.
The investigation was reported by Bloomberg citing two US officials familiar with the probe, and by The Wall Street Journal, which referred to people close to the matter.
Contacted by AFP, neither the Justice Department nor Volkswagen wanted to comment.
News of the criminal probe piles more pressure on VW, the world’s largest automaker by sales in the first half of this year.
On Friday US authorities said the company had acknowledged that it had equipped about 482,000 diesel VW and Audi cars in the US with software called a “defeat device” that covertly turns off pollution controls when the car is being driven and turns them on only when it detects that the car is undergoing an emissions test.
With the device off, the car can spew health-threatening pollutant gases into the air, including nitrogen oxide in amounts as much as 40 percent higher than emissions standards, said the US Environmental Protection Agency, which announced the allegations Friday along with California authorities.
The violations could cost VW $18 billion in fines.
On Friday, Volkswagen said it had received notice of an investigation “related to certain emissions compliance matters” from the EPA, the California Air Resources Board and the Justice Department, and that it was cooperating with the investigation.
Two Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives announced Monday an upcoming hearing on the issues with Volkswagen’s diesel engines.
“We will follow the facts,” said Fred Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Tim Murphy, chair of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, in a joint statement.
“We are also concerned that auto consumers may have been deceived — that what they were purchasing did not come as advertised.
“The American people deserve answers and assurances that this will not happen again. We intend to get those answers.”