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Seoul prosecutors summon Volkswagen headquarters employees for questioning

All News 18:07 July 14, 2016

SEOUL, July 14 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors said Thursday they have sent out summons to seven employees at Volkswagen's headquarters in Germany, including executive members, so that they can be questioned over their role in the emissions scandal.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said it sent the letter of request via the legal representative of the carmaker's local unit Audi Volkswagen Korea earlier this week.

"Essentially, the gist of the case lies with the German headquarters," a senior prosecutor said, asking not to be named. "If we say it is the local unit who did all the bad things, it would mean a failure to properly check the case."

Among the seven people, Trevor Hill, who headed the local unit from 2007 to 2012 as the managing director, was included.

"Practically, it will not be easy to bring them here and investigate them in South Korea," he said. "Still, we can't give up without trying and will continue to put up an effort to investigate them."

The legal action came in line with the environment ministry's decision to nullify the certifications of 79 models of the German carmaker under 32 homologation numbers that are suspected of obtaining approval from the local authorities with faked reports.

The Ministry of Environment said it has officially notified Audi Volkswagen Korea of the decision Tuesday after receiving a request for cooperation from the prosecution with a list of the problematic cars.

The ministry asked the German carmaker to attend a hearing next week before making a final decision by the end of this month.

Once the final decision is made, the ministry will put a sales ban on vehicles that have not been sold and order a recall of those that have been bought, as well as issue fines.

The ministry said it is reviewing legal matters to determine whether to apply the current law, which sets the upper limit of the fine for one certification number to 1 billion won (US878,000), or to apply the revised version with a 10 billion won limit, which will go into effect on July 28.

Some 79,000 vehicles are expected to lose approval following the ministry's decision. Combined with 125,000 cars that have already been nullified of their certification last year, the total number represents 70 percent of about 300,000 Volkswagen vehicles sold here since 2007.

Audi Volkswagen Korea said it will decide what measures, including legal actions, it will take after fully explaining its position at the hearing.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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