Date
22 January 2017
The emissions cheating scandal has badly tarnished the reputation of Volkswagen. Photo: AFP
The emissions cheating scandal has badly tarnished the reputation of Volkswagen. Photo: AFP

US widens probe into Volkswagen emissions cheating

The US Attorney’s office in Detroit and the US Justice Department’s fraud section joined a sweeping federal probe of Volkswagen AG over emissions-test cheating, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources.

The number of federal offices now involved in the Volkswagen case suggests an investigation could target the German carmaker and its employees for alleged offenses ranging from pollution to misleading government officials to making false claims to consumers.

The US Federal Trade Commission, which investigates fraudulent advertising, confirmed its involvement, suggesting a focus on potentially misleading claims regarding the emissions.

The involvement of the US Attorney in Detroit, Barbara McQuade, signals her office may take a significant role in what is expected to be a major case, the newspaper said.

McQuade has a reputation as an aggressive prosecutor, having won a corruption case against former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. 

David Uhlmann, formerly a top environmental crimes prosecutor who is now a law professor at the University of Michigan, said the number of government offices involved suggested the case would be “of national significance”, with any settlement likely to reach into the billions of US dollars.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which disclosed the carmaker’s cheating, could hit Volkswagen with more than US$18 billion in fines based on the number of vehicles involved, though it isn’t clear whether the agency will pursue such a large penalty.

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