Environment Ministry hits VW’s CEO with charges

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Environment Ministry hits VW’s CEO with charges

The Ministry of Environment filed criminal charges against Volkswagen Korea CEO Johannes Thammer for not obeying the ministry’s demand for a recall of all diesel cars involved in the emissions-rigging scandal.

The ministry said Tuesday it had charged the German CEO to the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office after determining that the recall plan the automaker submitted on Jan. 6 was full of hot air.

“The recall plan should’ve included details about the causes of technical defects and plans of how they will fix the problem, both of which were nowhere to be found,” said Hong Dong-gon, head of the traffic environment division of the ministry. “We decided that this was equivalent to not having submitted a recall plan at all. In the one sentence that discussed the defective engines, it was saying something completely unrelated to these particular defects. Regarding corrective measures, they should tell us how they will fix their cars, but the plan only said that the company lacked the software necessary to fix Volkswagen models in Korea.”

The ministry had ordered a recall of Volkswagens and Audis equipped with the problematic EA189 engine on Nov. 23, and the automaker submitted a recall plan on Jan. 6.

Disobeying a recall order is punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million won ($24,870).

In response, Volkswagen Korea announced that executives and engineers had been dispatched from the automaker’s German headquarters, and that CEO Thammer had visited Environment Ministry officials in Sejong City on Tuesday to explain the steps the company is taking to fix the defective engines.

“We gave more details about the technical solutions for those rigged vehicles when we met Environment Ministry officials,” said a spokesman of Volkswagen Korea. “We expect to make more progress later.”

The ministry said it is considering pressing additional charges against Volkswagen for blatant violations of the country’s environmental laws, as the rigged cars discharged more air pollutants than were allowed and the company violated the country’s rules related to emissions test.

“We will decide whether we will press criminal charges on these two issues after getting a legal advice from the Korea Government Legal Service, said Hong. “Regardless of these legal moves, Volkswagen Korea should resubmit a revised recall plan.”


BY KWON SANG-SOO [kwon.sangsoo@joongang.co.kr]



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