WirtschaftsWoche Exclusive

Report: Israeli Secret Service Knew of Dieselgate

main source Jochen Lübke DPA 30810899 ex CEO Martin Winterkorn left ex chairman Ferdinand Piech VW Volkswagen
VW's Mr. Piëch (pictured right) met an Israeli diplomat and a former member of Israel’s domestic intelligence-turned-entrepreneur in 2015. Source: Jochen Lübke/DPA.

Yuval Diskin, the former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service, played a role in Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal, according to a report in WirtschaftsWoche, a sister publication of Handelsblatt.

Together with Avi Primor, the former Israeli ambassador to Germany, Mr. Diskin met Ferdinand Piëch in February 2015 for a confidential interview with Volkswagen’s then-chairman of the supervisory board.

Mr. Diskin, who left the secret service in 2011 and then founded cyber security company Diskin Advanced Technologies, wanted to sell security services to Volkswagen.

Mr. Primor confirmed the meeting in an interview with WirtschaftsWoche: “I’m friends with Yuval Diskin and I did him a favor,” he said, adding that together they had meetings with “various German companies including Volkswagen.”

The diplomat denied being involved in anything business-related and emphasized he “only made contacts” for Mr. Diskin.

He also said he never mentioned diesel emissions in meetings with VW’s former chairman.

“I’m friends with Yuval Diskin and I did him a favor.”

Avi Primor, Former Israeli ambassador to Germany

According to earlier media reports, Mr. Primor told Mr. Piëch about the approaching revelations in the United States about the German carmaker’s vehicle emissions.

Mr. Primor’s classified information came from an “Israeli security company,” according to German tabloid Bild.

The question of when Volkswagen’s supervisory board knew about the cheat devices continues to preoccupy governments, investors and their lawyers who argue they should have been notified about Dieselgate sooner as it destroyed the value of the company’s vehicles and shares.

The former ambassador denied any prior knowledge of the Dieselgate scandal. Mr. Primor told Handelsblatt he had known Mr. Piëch for a long time and that they meet regularly, but that he did not warn him about the scandal in advance. “We didn’t talk about that,” he said.

Mr. Primor said he discussed his university projects supported by Volkswagen with Mr. Piëch.

The meeting with Volkswagen’s then-chairman paid off for Mr. Diskin: In 2016, the Wolfsburg-based auto maker founded Cymotive Technologies, a security company headquartered in Herzliya, Israel, together with Mr. Diskin. The company aims to close gaps in the safety systems of networked cars. Volkswagen’s subsidiary AutoVision owns 40 percent of Cymotive and the rest is owned by Mr. Diskin and two other former intelligence agents.

German intelligence experts assume that Mr. Primor’s information on the impending outbreak of the Dieselgate was passed on from U.S. services to Israeli services. “The Israeli intelligence services have long been working very closely and amicably with their counterparts in the U.S.,” according to sources at Germany’s external intelligence agency, the BND.

 

Jean-Michel Hauteville is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin. Martin Murphy covers the automotive, defense and steel industries for Handelsblatt. To contact the authors: hauteville@handelsblatt.com, murphy@handelsblatt.com.

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