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BMW Korea fined $13M over emissions

Automaker guilty of forging test papers in order to be certified

Jan 11,2019
A Seoul court fined BMW Korea 14.5 billion won ($12.9 million) for manipulating documents on emissions to sell some 29,000 vehicles in Korea.

The Seoul Central District Court announced Thursday that the local unit of BMW is guilty of violating customs law.

The automaker was found guilty of forging emissions test papers from 2011 to obtain certification from the National Institute of Environmental Research under the Environment Ministry that its cars meet local emissions standards. Roughly 29,000 cars were certified this way, according to the court.

“The automaker has undermined government efforts to improve air quality in Korea,” the court said in a statement. “This also damaged local customers’ trust in BMW.”

The court also added that BMW Korea took substantial profits over the years due to the manipulation, showing no effort to abide by local laws.

“The reason for making [carmakers go through] a stringent certification process is because car emissions have substantial impact on air quality,” the court said.

The Seoul court also found six former and current executives of the automaker involved in the case guilty. Three executives were sentenced to eight to 10 months in jail, with three others given a four to six month suspended sentence with probation.

On Thursday’s ruling, BMW Korea said in its official statement that the company “will respond following an appropriate legal process after thoroughly reviewing the case,” adding that it cannot give a “detailed answer yet.”

Last month, the Korean unit of rival German automaker Mercedes-Benz was also found guilty of violating the emissions certification process. The court gave Mercedes a 2.81 billion won fine and handed down an eight-month jail sentence to the executive in charge of emissions certifications. The carmaker was charged for failing to get new certifications after changing some emissions-related parts. Mercedes said it will appeal the ruling.

In its official statement last month, Mercedes said it was an administrative mistake, adding that it was unintentional.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]


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