Daily Briefing More Audi staff stalled Dieselgate probe

Audi’s audible silence; Deutsche Bank’s carpet ride; friend or foe on foreign policy. Here's our Daily Briefing for January 23, 2019.
Quelle: AP
(Source: AP)

Dieselgate isn’t done yet. Munich’s public prosecutor has expanded its investigation to include four further Audi workers. Now, 24 people at the carmaker are suspected of hindering an internal investigation; some were even explicitly tasked in 2015 with figuring out whether or not the carmaker was systematically cheating on emissions. To its credit, the carmaker itself notified the prosecutor about the hushup, Audi said.

For those just joining us: Dieselgate is about carmakers illegally fitting engines with little devices that dampen down emissions under testing conditions but let ‘em fly on the roads.

It’s unclear why this news is only coming out now, but worldwide, investigations continue. Last week, the US expanded its criminal probe into the VW unit, and indicted four managers – all developers at Audi’s engine department.

The trouble for the engineers is that they couldn’t square regulatory environmental requirements with the carmaker’s performance requirements.

The real question is still who knew what and when, and whether the rot started at the top. That’s taking much longer to figure out; Rupert Stadler, the former Audi boss, is still being investigated, while the US has charged Martin Winterkorn, who was leading Volkswagen during the period, and who is staying in Germany to avoid being arrested as part of the US investigations. It’s all slogging along very slowly and is seemingly be resisted at every turn. It’s also further polluting the carmakers’ damaged reputations.

Deutsche Bank, meanwhile, is in the headlines over a Trump Tower that was never built. The US President is being asked to testify in an €11 billion lawsuit brought by a man who was once the world’s biggest dealer in oriental carpets. Hafez Sabet says the failure to build the tower ruined his business and now he’s suing. Deutsche denies wrongdoing but Sabet still yearns for the Stuttgart pile: The tower was to have 24 floors of offices, 5 floors of luxury apartments, a high-end hotel, a shopping mall and a waterfall.

That case is unlikely to be discussed at a high-level meet in Washington, however. Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, is flying to the United States today to talk with Mike Pompeo about the INF, Syria after the US withdrawal, Iran, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, before heading to New York for a UN Security Council Meeting at the end of the week. It’ll be a difficult day, which is why Berlin sent a sweetener earlier this week, banning an Iranian airline the US wanted out of the skies in 2011.

That was a response to the revelation of an Iranian spy in the Bundeswehr, but also sent a signal to the US, attempting to ease what has become a “poisonous cocktail” in the sanctions environment, and Washington’s growing pressure on Berlin to quit the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and leave Iran. Germany and other European countries have sought to keep ties open to Tehran, believing that’s the best way to keep the nuclear deal alive. At first, Berlin’s rescinding of Mahan’s landing rights looked like a pretty minor gesture. Hopefully it is also a reminder that Germany and the US still share some of the same goals.

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