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(LEAD) Prosecutors confiscate hundreds of Volkswagen vehicles

All News 17:43 June 01, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 5-10; Minor edits)

SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors said Wednesday they have confiscated some 950 vehicles of the South Korean unit of the German carmaker Volkswagen, equipped with its new engine model, amid a probe into the company's emissions scandal.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said three of Audi Volkswagen Korea's models launched this year -- Audi A1, A3 and the popular Golf -- have been confiscated from its vehicle inspection center in Pyeongtaek, some 70 kilometers south of Seoul.

The legal action came two months after prosecutors raided the inspection center in late March and announced that it will launch an investigation into the German carmaker's new engine.

All three types of vehicles have passed Europe's stronger emission standards, known as Euro 6. Still, there have been allegations that these cars did not actually meet the tougher requirements.

Prosecutors suspect that some of the confiscated vehicles emit harmful gases exceeding the permitted level, in violation of the Clean Air Conservation Act.

All imported cars should go through a test to check if their emissions meet the country's permissible level and receive approval from the environment ministry. Prosecutors said Audi A1 and A3 -- about two-thirds of the confiscated cars -- skipped such process.

The problematic models have not been sold to local customers yet, according to prosecutors.

"It seems like they hurriedly imported the vehicles without going through proper procedures to meet the customers' demand," a senior prosecutor said. "We are expanding our investigation based on the possibility of similar defects in other models."

The prosecutor said South Korea is the first country in the world to investigate Volkswagen's cars that met the Euro 6 emissions standards.

In March, prosecutors sent the models to the National Institute of Environmental Research under the environment ministry to determine if the carmaker cheated on the emissions tests but could not receive proper results due to leakages in the exhaust mufflers. Prosecutors said they are also looking into the cause of the defects in the pipes.

Volkswagen was engulfed in a scandal last year over its manipulation of faked emissions results from some of its diesel models to meet tight regulations in the United States.

Massive recall plans were announced in major global markets, but it is still unclear when if the company will do so in South Korea.

In March, South Korea's environment ministry rejected Volkswagen's plan to recall its vehicles, citing the plan's insufficiency.


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