The U.S. Justice Department is working closely with German investigators to gather evidence for potential criminal charges in the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, a top official said Tuesday.
Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said investigators are looking at “multiple companies and multiple individuals” in the probe, but she did not identify any of them at a news conference to announce a settlement of up to $15.3 billion in the case involving VW diesel cars that cheated on emissions tests.
Yates also wouldn’t comment on whether U.S. investigators had been successful in navigating Germany’s strict privacy laws to get such crucial documents as internal company emails.
One company that could be involved in the probe is German auto parts supplier Bosch, which has extensive North American operations.
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Elizabeth Cabraser, the lead attorney for car owners who are suing VW, said Tuesday that civil claims can continue against Bosch, which made the “defeat devices” that turned pollution controls on during Environmental Protection Agency lab tests and turned them off on real roads. That allowed the cars to emit more pollution while being driven.
A spokeswoman for Robert Bosch LLC in suburban Detroit said there is no criminal investigation against the company in the U.S., but a probe in Germany was announced several months ago.
Bosch sold a large number of engine control computers to VW for its diesel engines, and the company is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of fuel injection technology, spokeswoman Linda Beckmeyer said. The engine control computers handle emissions controls, among other tasks.
The Justice Department began investigating last fall after the cheating was uncovered.
A Daimler spokesman said in April that the company is doing an internal investigation of its exhaust emissions.
The settlement announced Tuesday is considered the largest auto-related consumer class action settlement in U.S. history.
As part of the settlement, the company must offer to buy back most of the affected 475,000 cars with diesel engines or terminate their leases. That’s because, according to court documents filed Tuesday, there currently is no repair that can bring the cars into compliance with U.S. pollution regulations.
If VW does propose a repair, it must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.
U.S. owners of cars with 2-liter diesel engines can choose to either sell their car back to VW or get a repair. They each will also receive compensation of $5,100 to $10,000.
The settlement also includes $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and $2 billion for research on zero emissions technology.
Missouri: $40 million restitution covering 8,750 vehicles
Kansas: $11.1 million restitution covering 2,000 vehicles
Source: Missouri and Kansas attorney generals