As part of the global investigation sparked by Volkswagen's use of software to cheat emissions test results, French authorities have carried out raids on the automaker's headquarters in France.
French prosecutors say the raids were carried out in the company's main office in Villers-Cotterets, a commune in the Aisne department in northern France just northeast of Paris, and in another office in Roissy-en-France, located in the northeastern suburbs of the French capital near the Charles de Gaulle Airport.
A Volkswagen spokesperson said the French headquarters is cooperating with authorities, but declined to provide a further statement. Computer hardware and documents were reportedly part of the evidence collected by authorities during the search, which is part of a preliminary investigation launched by the Paris Prosecutor to look into the "aggravated deception" Volkswagen has admitted to.
The investigation aims to figure out who masterminded the outfitting of vehicles with software that can manipulate emissions data and who were in on the cheating. Volkswagen former CEO Martin Winterkorn, who also very recently was forced to step down as CEO of the company's luxury sports car group Porsche, earlier said that the installation of cheating software was the work of a few engineers at the company. However, experts believe the company's executives cannot have not known about the defeat device, considering the massive global scale of the scandal.
Whoever is found liable may face criminal charges in various countries, while Volkswagen is at risk of paying humongous fines and legal costs worth billions of dollars, not to mention the costs of repairing affected vehicles and customer trust.
France is one of the several countries looking into Volkswagen emissions cheating practices. Nearly 1 million vehicles sold by Volkswagen brands in France, including VW, Audi and Skoda, are equipped with the EA 189 engines that are outfitted with the company's defeat device.
Across the globe, Volkswagen says around 11 million diesel vehicles are affected by the fallout following the revelation of the cheating software. In the European Union, the company has announced it will be recalling 8.5 million vehicles that have the affected engine.