Monday

27th May 2019

EU investment bank confirms secrecy of VW fraud report

  • A European Investment Bank exhibit at the 2013 International Transport Forum (Photo: International Transport Forum)

The European Investment Bank (EIB) decided on Tuesday (17 April) that a report about how carmaker Volkswagen Group (VW) was able to acquire a €400m loan by deception should remain confidential in its entirety.

In a six-page letter, EIB secretary general Marjut Santoni said that he agreed with the decision of his staff to refuse EUobserver access to the report, as well as to any EIB emails that discussed its contents.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The document, by anti-fraud agency Olaf, reportedly explains how the German car manufacturer was able to acquire the loan in 2009, while withholding from the bank that it was producing millions of diesel cars with illegal emissions-cheating software.

This website had asked the EIB for the Olaf report in a formal access to documents request last January, after Olaf had turned it down.

Six weeks ago, the Luxembourg-based bank refused access to that report, because "its disclosure would seriously undermine the protection of i) the privacy and the integrity of individuals, ii) ongoing court proceedings, iii) the purpose of investigations".

On Tuesday, Santoni wrote to say that the bank had reviewed the decision, but came to the same conclusion.

He gave several reasons.

Ongoing investigation

One is that by keeping the report confidential, the bank was protecting ongoing court proceedings and ongoing investigations at national level.

Publishing the report would "distort the principle of the sound administration of justice".

While Santoni did not specify, this would refer to investigations by the Braunschweig public prosecutor in Germany.

However, a German report by Das Erste last February said that Olaf had only sent the report to Braunschweig in English, which made it inadmissible.

Attorney general Klaus Ziehe confirmed to EUobserver in an email on Wednesday morning that the Braunschweig public prosecutor had opened a preliminary investigation on the basis of Olaf documents.

He noted that Olaf had "meanwhile" translated the "main parts" of its evidence into German. The full translation was expected for next month - nine months after Olaf had finished the English version.

Ziehe said it was still open when and if the investigation would lead to a decision to prosecute. He did note that the defendant – i.e. those responsible for the deception – had been given access to the Olaf documents.

Internal consultations

The EIB secretary general also noted that "internal discussions and consultations" about the Olaf report were "ongoing".

"Disclosure [of the report] would therefore seriously undermine any final outcome on the bank's consideration of this file," wrote Santoni.

EUobserver had argued that there could be an overriding public interest in disclosing the report, because it would allow citizens to see what went wrong. We also requested internal emails about the report, so that citizens may determine if they think that the bank is doing enough to learn lessons from the affair.

But according to the EIB the reasons given were "not sufficiently specific to establish an overriding public interest that would prevail over the protection afforded by the [EIB's transparency policy]'s exceptions invoked by the bank in this case".

European Parliament

This website also pointed out in its appeal that since it had made its request, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in which it asked for the release of the report.

But the EIB merely stated that it had "taken note of the parliament's call regarding this issue", and that it had responded to interested MEPs "in line with the initial response" given to EUobserver – i.e. refusal to disclose the report.

Not emissions-related

Santoni also dismissed another argument given by EUobserver, related to an international treaty called the Aarhus Convention.

The European Union is a party to this 1998 agreement on access to environmental information, including information related to emissions into the environment.

However, the EIB said that the report did not qualify as environmental information.

Santoni also noted that the Olaf investigation "did not identify any failure in the EIB processes linked to the appraisal, approval, and monitoring of the EIB loan".

The bank also upheld the decision not to disclose any internal emails in which lessons learned were discussed.

This article was updated on Wednesday 18 April, 12:04PM, to include a comment from Braunschweig attorney general Klaus Ziehe. It was further updated on Monday 23 April, 7:44AM, to correct that Volkswagen was not a defendant in the German case. Only natural persons can be.

EU investment bank rejects MEPs' plea for VW fraud report

European Investment Bank cites privacy and ongoing investigations as reasons for refusing to release an anti-fraud report into how it lent €400m to Volkswagen, while the company was rigging emission tests.

EIB silent on report into 'fraudulent' VW loan

European Investment Bank vice-president Taylor tells EUobserver the fraud investigation into a €400 million EIB loan to Volkswagen had 'considerable ramifications', but didn't want to explain why the report was kept secret.

Investigation

EU probe into VW loan remains opaque

EU anti-fraud agency and European Investment Bank tight-lipped on report that said Volkswagen deceived the bank when acquiring a €400 million loan.

MEPs want Volkswagen EU loan fraud report published

The European Investment Bank has kept a report explaining how it was tricked into giving Volkswagen Group a €400m loan secret. MEPs want to make it public, plus a paper with recommendations on how to prevent future deceptions.

Secrecy of VW fraud report 'unacceptable', says MEP

Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala won a trailblazing court case two decades ago for the right of EU citizens to receive 'partial access' to documents. Now she says it is "outrageous" the European Investment Bank is refusing to release Volkswagen documents.

News in Brief

  1. Russia-critical banker elected president of Lithuania
  2. Timmermans calls for 'progressive alliance'
  3. Catalonia's Puigdemont wins MEP seat
  4. Weber opens door to alliance with greens and liberals
  5. Tsipras calls snap Greek election after EP defeat
  6. Polish ruling PiS takes lion's share of EU vote
  7. Romanian voters punish ruling PSD party
  8. First official EP projection: EPP remain top, Greens fourth

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Latest News

  1. Salvini triumphs in Italy
  2. After victory, Farage wants seat at Brexit talks
  3. Key takeaways from the European elections
  4. Populists' EU breakthrough fails, greens and liberals gain
  5. Jubilant Greens in party mood after first EP projection
  6. 2019 European election results
  7. Thunberg: We can still fix climate, but must start today
  8. Turnout up in Slovakia, with pro-EU liberals scoring high

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us