VW May Face Criminal Probe in Germany as Prosecutors Review Case

  • Local prosecutors open `pre-investigation review' of case
  • VW accused of using software to evade emissions tests in cars

Volkswagen AG may face a criminal probe in Germany as local prosecutors look into the carmaker’s scheme to dupe regulators and consumers about emissions of its diesel engines.

The investigators in the city of Braunschweig opened a "pre-investigation review" that was also prompted by complaints several citizens have filed over the issue, the prosecutors’ office said in an e-mailed statement. A probe would target “responsible people at Volkswagen."

“The office is looking at aggravated fraud as the possible crime," said a spokesman for the prosecutors in Braunschweig, the local authority for Wolfsburg-based VW.

Executives at the carmaker admitted that the company rigged software to disguise emissions performance during tests of diesel engines installed in 11 million vehicles worldwide, a scandal that’s wiped out about one-third of the company’s value and brought investigations around the world. The U.S. Justice Department is looking into VW, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the inquiry. The company is also a target in U.S. states including New York and Connecticut.

The federal German government opened its own probe Tuesday, and Italy is also looking into the case. Prosecutors in Ingolstadt, Germany, the home town of Volkswagen’s Audi unit, are also monitoring developments, a spokesman said.