Jan 13 (Reuters) - Volkswagen has agreed to pay a $4.3 billion fine to settle U.S. criminal charges that it conspired for nearly 10 years to cheat on diesel emission tests. This follows an even larger civil settlement in October.
But investor lawsuits and investigations by state prosecutors continue elsewhere.
In October, a U.S. judge approved a $14.7 billion civil settlement with regulators and owners of 475,000 polluting diesel vehicles, and the German automaker said it would begin buying back the vehicles in mid-November. Court cases are still pending in about 20 states, including New York, Massachusetts and Maryland.
Volkswagen faces 8.8 billion euros in damages claims from investors. A total of about 1,520 lawsuits have been lodged in the court near VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters, including cases from the states of Hesse, Baden-Wuertemberg and Bavaria.
Prosecutors are also investigating 31 people.
The Australian consumer watchdog said in September it had sued the Australian arm of Volkswagen. In November 2015, Law firm Maurice Blackburn said it would launch a Federal Court class action on behalf of Australian owners of Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda vehicles seeking total damages “well north” of A$100 million.
Consumer organization Test Achats has launched a class action suit against Volkswagen for vehicles sold after Sept. 1, 2014. A judge will decide whether this suit is admissible. Separately, the region of Flanders brought a case against Volkswagen in November, which Brussels prosecutors are investigating. The Walloon region has also appointed a lawyer to bring a case but formal proceedings have not yet started.
France has opened an investigation into suspected “aggravated fraud” by Volkswagen. In January, it was passed to the prosecution team in charge of public health questions.
Volkswagen was fined 5 million euros by the country’s anti-trust agency in August for allegedly misinforming car buyers about diesel emissions results. The carmaker plans to challenge the fine.
An appeals court in Venice has accepted a class action suit against Volkswagen over allegations it understated the fuel consumption of its Golf model.
Police opened an investigation of Volkswagen in September 2015 which remains open. Police will await the outcome of Germany’s investigation before deciding whether to proceed. Separately, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund said in May it would join a class-action lawsuit over the emissions scandal, and in June it filed a complaint to the Braunschweig District Court in Germany.
High Court said in July that VW’s parent company, based in Germany, would be liable to answer any charges over emissions fraud, rather than its Spanish affiliates.
Prosecutors indicted seven current and former executives and employees of VW’s local unit as well as one contractor for alleged violation of the Clean Air Conservation Act and other charges.
Prosecutors are conducting two parallel preliminary investigations, one focused on suspected fraud and the other on suspected environmental crimes. Both probes remain ongoing and have yet to place any individuals under suspicion. In the fraud probe, the prosecutor at Sweden’s National Unit Against Corruption is awaiting further information pertinent to the case from Germany.
Prosecutors have opened criminal proceedings and seized evidence from the AMAG dealership network after an appellate court ruled Swiss investigators must conduct their own investigation of Volkswagen.
Harcus Sinclair UK will pursue a group action at the High Court seeking thousands of pounds of compensation each for UK drivers. The first hearing in the group action case is due to take place on Jan. 30.. (Reporting by Pawel Goraj and Wout Vergauwen; Editing by Alexander Smith)