Frankfurt am Main (AFP) – German police on Wednesday carried out raids on properties linked to two top Porsche executives and one ex-employee of the luxury carmaker as part of a fraud probe linked to the diesel emissions cheating scandal, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors from Stuttgart and Munich were joined by some 160 police officers in a search of “10 sites” in the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria, the Stuttgart prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The three unnamed individuals are under investigation for suspected fraud and false advertising stemming from the manipulation of exhaust treatment in diesel vehicles manufactured by Porsche.
“The three accused consist of one member of Porsche’s executive board and one senior manager. The third accused no longer works for Porsche,” prosecutors said.
Porsche confirmed the raids in a statement to AFP, adding that searches were taking place at the company’s offices in the southwestern city of Stuttgart, as well as at Audi offices in Ingolstadt.
Both luxury brands are owned by parent company Volkswagen.
“Audi AG and Porsche AG are cooperating fully with the investigating authorities,” a Porsche spokesman said.
– Sea of legal woes –
It is the first Porsche’s offices have been searched over the diesel cheating controversy, while raids have in the past taken place at VW and Audi.
Prosecutors declined to give further details about the raids, which come less than a week after the Volkswagen group replaced its CEO — former Porsche boss Matthias Mueller — in a bid to turn the page on the “dieselgate” scandal.
Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to using so-called “defeat device” software to cheat regulatory pollution tests in some 11 million cars worldwide, mainly in its own-brand VW cars but also in those made by Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat.
Mueller, who led Porsche between 2010 and 2015, took the helm of the VW group in the turbulent days after the scandal broke.
But he too came into prosecutors’ sights as the group plunged into a sea of legal challenges at home and abroad that have already cost the auto giant over 25 billion euros ($31 billion) in fines, buybacks and compensation.
Stuttgart prosecutors said last year they were investigating Mueller over market manipulation, suspecting he failed to share information about the diesel cheating scandal quickly enough with shareholders.
Last Friday, Mueller was replaced as CEO by VW brand chief Herbert Diess, who has vowed to steer the company out of the crisis by pushing on with much-needed reforms and continue a shift towards electric cars and sustainable mobility.