Luxembourg sues 'unknown' VW staff on emissions fraud
By Peter Teffer
Luxembourg has filed a lawsuit for fraud against “unknown” executives in Volkswagen Group who were responsible for the Dieselgate affair.
The Grand Duchy said on Monday (6 February) that it could not name names because it was still unclear who within the German carmaker knew that millions of its diesel cars were being equipped with emissions cheating software.
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Rosano Grasso, the lawyer on behalf of the state, added, according to the Letzebuerger Journal newspaper: “If we would sue the CEO of VW, we may receive a counter-accusation of slander.”
Also on Monday, the VW CEO Matthias Mueller visited Brussels to speak to the EU commissioner for consumer affairs, Vera Jourova. He repeated that Volkswagen will not compensate EU customers who had bought a car with the fraudulent software.
A commission source told EUobserver that VW agreed with Jourova that it would begin sending monthly reports that detailed the progress towards repairing the 8.5 million affected cars in Europe.
Mueller repeated the company's promise that all cars should be repaired by the autumn of 2017, two years after the scandal became public.
“He also agreed to reinforce and intensify the information campaign of Volkswagen,” said Jourova in a press statement.
“However, I insisted again that Volkswagen should offer a kind of bonus or compensation to its European customers. EU consumers deserve a fair treatment and Volkswagen should move on that point soon,” said Jourova, adding that such a solution was “also in Volkswagen's interest”.
In Europe, many member states, including Germany, never introduced into law the penalties for such a crime despite their obligations under EU law.
At one hearing in the European Parliament, the head of the German car approval authority even said that making VW repair the cars was enough of a penalty.
Luxembourg also does not have the means to punish the use of illegal defeat devices, as the cheating software is known.
“We did not have any sanction possibilities,” Luxembourg’s environment minister, Francois Bausch, said according to the Letzebuerger Journal, even though all EU states had committed to introduce sanctions by 2009.
He noted, however, that a new law which was entered into force at the end of 2016 would make this kind of fraud punishable by up to three years in jail and a fine of up to €500,000.
He also said the certificates granted by the Luxembourg car approval authority to Audi, a VW daughter company, could be withdrawn.
Luxembourg's legal action comes less than two months after the European Commission opened infringement procedures against Luxembourg and six other EU countries, for not doing enough to deter carmakers from cheating on emission tests.
Luxembourg had two months to reply. Monday's legal action was said to have started already in June 2016, however.
Meanwhile, European lawmakers are preparing this week to vote on the future of the European car approval system, including on how certification fraud can be prevented or punished.
The internal market and consumer affairs committee will vote on a commission proposal which would grant the commission more oversight in the certification process.
Sources in the European Parliament told EUobserver that it looked like MEPs would reach a compromise before the vote.
This compromise would not advocate setting up a separate EU agency, as some left-wing MEPs had wanted, but would give the commission more powers and would increase transparency.