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8th Mar 2021

EIB 'more sensitive' to fraud after Dieselgate

  • European Investment Bank president Werner Hoyer on Dieselgate: 'We have been seriously hit by this case' (Photo: Council of the European Union)

President Werner Hoyer of the European Investment Bank (EIB) had little of substance to say on Thursday (18 January) when asked to explain what the bank learned from its experience with a €400 million loan to German carmaker Volkswagen.

Last year, the EU's anti-fraud agency Olaf found that Volkswagen had misled the bank about the car company's use of emissions cheating software, in a scandal that has become known as Dieselgate.

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"I cannot comment on Olaf, but I can tell you that our sensitivity – which has always been pretty high – has even been going up since we [had] this experience, this disappointing experience with that one company," said Hoyer in Brussels, at the bank's annual press conference.

This website had asked the EIB president how he expected the public to trust that the bank had learned from the experience, given that both the EIB and Olaf refuse to publish the Olaf report on what happened.

"You can be sure that our compliance partners, experts, our investigators, are fully on track in order to find out what has been going on," he said.

"We have been seriously hit by this case, and the neighbouring cases, so to speak. We have done what we could in order to cooperate with Olaf and all the other institutions, and our sensitivity is extremely high in these questions."

Hoyer went on to say that the EIB has "very, very high" standards and criteria.

"We are very ambitious. In most cases we are the market leaders in this respect. We have to live up to a reputation that so far is very high and we intend to maintain that," he said.

The EIB loan to Volkswagen was signed in 2009, and paid back since then. But in 2015, the Dieselgate scandal erupted, revealing that the Volkswagen Group had equipped some 8.5 million cars in Europe with illegal software code, which made the car appear cleaner in the official test than on the road.

At the EIB's annual press conference in 2016, Hoyer said the bank could not exclude that the loan was used for fraudulent purposes.

A year later, he said the bank did not find "any indication" that its loans had been misused.

"As far as we know – and we have investigated very, very thoroughly – our loans to Volkswagen have not been abused," said Hoyer in January 2017.

However, six months later news website Politico reported that Olaf had concluded that Volkswagen acquired the EIB loan through "fraud" and "deception."

Following that news report, this website asked if the Olaf report could be published. The press office of Olaf referred EUobserver to the EIB, while the EIB referred back to Olaf.

Olaf has also rejected a freedom of information request, on the grounds that making the document public would undermine its ability to fight fraud, a stance for which it relies on case law from the Court of Justice of the EU.

Last November, the EIB's vice-president in charge of climate action, Jonathan Taylor, also had no comment.

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