Volkswagen is being investigated by authorities in Germany over data that was deleted in advance of the company’s public admission that it had installed defeat devices to cheat its way past emissions testing.
Klaus Ziehe, a spokesman for the state prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig, told The New York Times that the department is investigating claims from multiple employees that a manager at Volkswagen encouraged employees to destroy or remove documents prior to the company’s public statement of guilt in September 2015.
Although the manager didn’t directly give orders to destroy data, “everyone understood” his meaning. The manager wasn’t named due to privacy laws, but the American newspaper understands that the person was part of Volkswagen’s legal department and his since been suspended.
The prosecutor’s office told Reuters that data was moved onto USB sticks and then deleted from Volkswagen’s computer network. Some of these sticks have since been recovered or handed in.
Although there is some suspicion that the data might be relevant to the dieselgate saga, a spokesperson for the office said that “prosecutors are not assuming that a large amount of data has been lost, [or] enough substantially to hinder or delay the diesel investigations”.
According to the news wire, a former employee of Volkswagen North America is suing the company for unlawful dismissal. He claims that he was let go because he spoke out about the company deleting data related to the dieselgate emissions cheating scandal.
In September 2015, Volkswagen admitted to US authorities that it had used to defeat device software to cheat its way through emissions tests for cars equipped with the EA189 turbo-diesel engine.
With investigations still underway, it’s still not known who knew what and when they knew it. Although the company has admitted that Martin Winterkorn, its former CEO, was informed of the emissions cheating scheme in mid-2014, it’s not clear who approved the idea.
In the last two weeks, the German government has approved Volkswagen’s proposed fixes for 1.9 million vehicles fitted with the EA189 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine.