October 19, 2015 / 2:37 PM / 3 years ago

Spain's public prosecutor pushes for VW investigation

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s public prosecutor has asked the country’s High Court to investigate German carmaker Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) and the scandal surrounding its rigging of diesel emissions tests, according to a court document seen by Reuters.

Workers clean the facade of a Volkswagen dealership near the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain, October 16, 2015. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo

The public prosecutor argued that Volkswagen might have committed fraud, including by taking subsidies illicitly, and may have committed a crime related to the environment due to pollution by its cars, the document showed.

Volkswagen declined to comment.

If Spain’s High Court agrees to take on the case, it would be handed to an investigating magistrate and could still take months or even years to go to trial — or it could be dropped.

Europe’s largest automaker has admitted rigging diesel emissions tests in the United States, and its operations elsewhere are also being scrutinized.

It has said that in Spain alone, nearly 700,000 cars, mostly linked to its SEAT brand, may have included the illegal software at the heart of the scandal which erupted in mid-September.

Volkswagen’s share price has suffered as a result and its long-time chief executive had to quit.

Spain’s public prosecutor is requesting that Spain’s Industry Ministry, which has been in close contact with Volkswagen over the case, hand over all the information it has gathered so far.

It also wants Volkswagen to provide more details on its Spanish operations and on the software it used.

Spain’s government had said it would try to claw back car purchase subsidies handed out to Volkswagen, though it has since been more cautious, noting that the incentives to buy greener vehicles were not linked to the exact types of emissions under scrutiny and may not be recoverable.

The Industry Ministry has stressed, however, than a 4.2 billion-euro ($4.75 billion) investment in Spain by Volkswagen would be guaranteed, at a time when the carmaker is contemplating massive cost savings.

($1 = 0.8836 euros)

Reporting by Robert Hetz and Jose Elias Rodriguez; Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Mark Potter

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