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exhaustive inquiry

Police seize hard-drives and files in raid at Volkswagen HQ in Germany

The company is recalling 80,000 cars in Ireland in the wake of the scandal.

Updated at 3:55pm

GERMAN POLICE SWEPT into Volkswagen’s headquarters today, carrying away files and hard disks in their investigation into a massive pollution cheating scandal engulfing the auto giant.

Private apartments were also raided in Volkswagen’s hometown of Wolfsburg and other cities, prosecutors told AFP, as police seek to secure documents and digital data that could point to those responsible for the deception of global proportions.

Volkswagen confirmed that it had “handed over” documents to prosecutors, adding that the company would provide the necessary support to the probe.

The raids came as Volkswagen’s US chief prepared to face Congress, when he would tell a committee that he knew more than a year ago that the group’s cars possibly breached pollution rules.

michael Michael Horn

In testimony released ahead of his hearing before a congressional committee, Michael Horn offered a “sincere apology” over Volkswagen’s use of a software designed to cheat pollution tests as he vowed full cooperation with the authorities to shed light on the scam.

The German auto giant sank into the deepest crisis of its history after revealing that it equipped 11 million of its diesel vehicles worldwide with software that switches the engine to a low-emissions mode during tests.

The so-called defeat devices then turn off pollution controls when the vehicle is on the road, allowing it to spew out harmful levels of toxic gases.

The shocking revelations have wiped more than 40 percent off Volkswagen’s market capitalisation, but the direct and indirect costs are still incalculable as the company risks fines in several countries and possible damages from customers’ lawsuits.

vw PA PA

‘Take full responsibility’ 

Meanwhile, in Washington, Horn will tell a congressional committee that he learnt in early 2014 of “a possible emissions non-compliance”, after researchers at the University of West Virginia found that VW cars it had tested were releasing up to 40 times as much nitrogen oxide as was legally permissible.

In the prepared testimony released ahead of the hearing, Horn said he was told by his staff that US authorities could conduct tests for defeat devices, and was subsequently informed later that year that technical teams had a plan to bring the vehicles into compliance and were working with the authorities on the process.

Investigations being conducted on a global scale will identify those responsible for the scam and hold them accountable, he said.

Volkswagen, which submitted its plans and timetable to bring vehicles into compliance to German authorities on Wednesday, plans to begin recalling affected vehicles from January.

But it admitted that it would only complete the refitting by the end of 2016.

The group has set aside 6.5 billion euros in the third quarter over the affair, but that would only likely cover repairs of affected vehicles.

In the United States alone, Volkswagen faces up to $18 billion (16 billion euros) in fines from the Environmental Protection Agency, plus potential payouts from class action lawsuits and penalties from other regulators.

- © AFP, 2015

Read: Volkswagen to recall 80,000 cars in Ireland

Read: Is your car affected by the emissions scandal? You’ll soon be able to check online

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