France opens Volkswagen emissions scandal probe

Hoses connect laboratory emission testing equipment to a red 2016 Volkswagen AG Golf TDI inside the California Air Resources Board Haagen-Smit Laboratory in El Monte, California.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

France has opened a formal investigation into suspected "aggravated fraud" by Volkswagen following revelations the German carmaker rigged vehicle diesel emissions tests, the Paris prosecutor's office said on Tuesday.

The prosecutor had already opened a preliminary inquiry in October, and French police had carried out searches at the German carmaker's offices in France, seizing computer material.

Volkswagen has said 946,092 vehicles in France were equipped with the EA 189 engines potentially affected by the emissions data manipulation carried out by the company worldwide.

The probe concerns vehicles sold in France, according to the prosecutor's office.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, German insurer Allianz plans to sue Volkswagen in the coming weeks to seek compensation for a severe drop in the car maker's share price stemming from the "Dieselgate" emissions scandal, a source familiar with the situation said.

The planned lawsuit by Allianz Global Investors (AGI) represents the first such action by a major German institution against the national carmaking icon, which is still reeling from the biggest corporate scandal in its history.

"It will happen within this month," the person said.

New Volkswagen Group Chairman Matthias Mueller speaks to the media with Volkswagen Work Council head Bernd Osterloh and Lower Saxony Governor Stephan Weil (both not pictured) while standing at the assembly line of the Volkswagen factory on October 21, 2015 in Wolfsburg, Germany.
VW prepares for further diesel scandal provisions: CEO

AGI said in a statement on Tuesday it had not filed an action against VW to date but was weighing a suit.

"As asset manager it is our fiduciary obligation to evaluate potential claims against capital market participants and, if necessary, follow through in the best interest of our investors," it said. "A potential compensation would be for the benefit of the funds."

Volkswagen already faces a number of lawsuits resulting from the diesel emissions cheating scandal that affected about 11 million cars globally. Other German fund managers are also weighing legal action.

California State Teachers' Retirement System announced last week it planned to participate in a German suit against Volkswagen.

Volkswagen declined to comment.

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