Business

Offices of Volkswagen, Audi chiefs searched in raid

Markus Schreiber/Associated Press/File

FRANKFURT — German officials included the offices of both Volkswagen’s chief executive and the head of the Audi division when they raided company premises last week as part of an investigation into emissions fraud, according to a copy of the search warrant.

The warrant, whose contents were viewed by The New York Times, was first reported Sunday by the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. It does not identify Matthias Muller, Volkswagen’s chief executive, or Rupert Stadler, head of the Audi luxury car division, as suspects in the case.

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Investigators do not yet have enough evidence to determine who is responsible for illegally manipulating diesel motor software to deceive US clean-air regulators, according to the warrant.

But the warrant, signed by a judge in Munich, allowed investigators to seize documents and other items such as appointment calendars, copies of e-mails, mobile phones, and electronic passwords from Muller and Stadler, and numerous other current or past Volkswagen and Audi employees.

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The 13-page document portrays a much broader investigation than was previously known. It indicates that Volkswagen is far from dealing with the consequences of its emissions cheating a year and a half after it was first exposed. Volkswagen and Audi face a host of problems, including slipping market share in Europe and China, and can ill afford any further damage to their reputations.

The warrant, used by Munich prosecutors as part of an investigation that focuses on Audi’s role in the scandal, allowed officials to search company departments including sales, marketing, personnel, engine development, and legal compliance, along with the executive offices. The document, which also included a map of Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt, names 47 people whose property is subject to seizure, including Muller and Stadler.

Eric Felber, a Volkswagen spokesman, said the company was cooperating fully with investigators and declined to comment further. Muller said last week that no current member of the Volkswagen management board, a group that includes Stadler, was involved in any wrongdoing.

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Volkswagen has had to continually retreat from its initial assertion in 2015 that the deception was the work of a handful of rogue engineers. Volkswagen pleaded guilty in a Detroit court this month to charges that included conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act. While maintaining that no members of the management board took part, Volkswagen acknowledged that the fraud involved numerous employees and departments.

In a statement of facts, Volkswagen said that its employees programmed pollution control equipment in diesel cars to operate at a reduced level except when software detected that an emissions test was underway. As a result, the cars spewed excess amounts of nitrogen oxides.

The fraud reached from company headquarters in Wolfsburg to Volkswagen offices in the United States, and included employees in engine development, quality control, and emissions compliance, the company admitted.

Volkswagen also conceded that, when it became clear that US regulators were about to uncover the fraud, in-house lawyers encouraged other employees to destroy evidence.

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