GERMANY has asked Spain to hand over its investigations into the Volkswagen 'Dieselgate' fraud for ease of administration, fearing that if the inquiry is too fragmented worldwide, it could lead to cases being filed due to lack of evidence or expiring under the various national statutes of limitations.
'Doctored' engines, fitted with software to mask true emissions readings, are believed to have affected around 11 million cars and vans on the planet.
A recall on all Volkswagens of models known to be carrying the rogue software has allowed anyone who bought a vehicle with a manipulated engine to have theirs replaced free of charge.
At present, 'Dieselgate' in Spain is being handled by National Court judge Ismael Moreno who, as yet, has not found evidence of 'liability' of 'any persons or companies acting on an individual basis' in Spain – or, nobody who specifically and knowingly installed, or ordered the installation of, the emissions-masking programme in EA189 engines.
The prosecution service in Brunswick, Germany has contacted Judge Moreno to say it is well under way with its own inquiries and in evidence-gathering against Volkswagen managers responsible for the fraud, and wants to consolidate the case under one roof.
According to the German prosecution, the decisions and orders came from the top end of the corporate hierarchy and 'subordinate employees', distributors and importers were unaware of the scam, which had been ongoing for several years before it was uncovered.
Even though 11 million separate doctored vehicles are known to have been affected, they all link back to a single decision by upper management and therefore can be considered as one legal case.
But if just one national court within the Schengen zone archives the case through lack of evidence or time having run out, it means every single other court in the EU passport-free area countries would be obliged to do the same – and Germany wants to stop this happening.
Switzerland and Austria have reportedly already agreed to hand over their cases to Germany, and other countries are weighing up their options, says the prosecution in Brunswick.
This means employees in Spain's VW plants – Volkswagen Audi España, S.A.; Seat, S.A. in Sabadell (Barcelona), and Volkswagen Navarra S.A. - can breathe easily, since Germany is already satisfied that they were not involved, unless unwittingly.
Spain is one of the few countries which has not taken State action against Volkswagen for the fraud – unlike nations such as the USA – and only a handful of customers who bought cars with the EA189 engines have applied to the courts in Spain as individual plaintiffs in civil liability cases.