The public prosecutors’ office in the city of Stuttgart has opened an official investigation involving three mid-level managers at the auto components supplier Bosch over their possible involvement in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, a spokesperson for the office confirmed Thursday.
Bosch, based in the town of Gerlingen near Stuttgart, supplied the engine control device that houses the software used by VW to manipulate diesel emissions during tests. Bosch has categorically denied any wrongdoing, insisting that it simply made the components according to Volkswagen’s specifications and was not responsible for how they were used.
The investigation and possible prosecution of individual employees at Bosch marks a potential new phase in the larger probe of diesel emissions cheating at Volkswagen. Prosecutors say the Bosch employees are under initial suspicion of aiding and abetting fraud in connection with manipulation of emissions in Volkswagen vehicles. It is possible that other employees of Bosch will be added to the investigation as the probe continues.
As a leading producer of engine control units, Bosch’s products control engine settings and other functions related to emissions. Stuttgart prosecutors have also been investigating unknown Bosch employees in connection with possible exhaust manipulations at Mercedes-maker Daimler.
A Bosch spokesperson said that the company is taking the allegations very seriously and will cooperate with investigators. As of now, Bosch offices have not been searched by authorities, unlike the offices of Volkswagen and Daimler.
The ongoing investigation involving Bosch began in September 2015, and prosecutors expect the investigation to continue for a long period of time.
In May, Bosch was forced to pay $327.5 million (€287 million) to owners of Volkswagen diesel cars as part of a US civil case. The payment allowed the company to avoid a drawn-out court case, but it did not admit any guilt. Bosch, which has 390,000 employees around the world, set aside €1 billion for potential legal cases.
Handelsblatt’s Martin-Walter Buchenau covers companies and markets, and politics. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org