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‘Dieselgate’ continues as German prosecutors raid Audi offices, factories

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Raids against prominent Audi facilities show the lingering Volkswagen diesel scandal is far from over.

The Volkswagen Group is getting closer to resolving criminal charges in the United States related to its use of illegal “defeat device” software in diesel cars, but the situation is only beginning to heat up in Europe.

Audi offices and factories were raided by German prosecutors Wednesday in connection with parent VW’s diesel scandal, reports Automotive News Europe (subscription required). The raids were the first on Audi facilities since the diesel scandal broke 18 months ago.

The raids focused on the 83,000 Audi, Porsche, and VW models with 3.0-liter V6 engines found to have “defeat device” software that allowed them to cheat U.S. emissions tests. Munich prosecutors said European-market cars were outside the scope of the investigation. The Volkswagen Group has agreed to buy back some affected cars, and┬ámodify others to meet emissions standards, at an estimated cost of $1 billion.

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Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg headquarters was searched, along with Audi factories in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, and six other unspecified facilities. The raids coincided with a press conference held by Audi CEO Rupert Stadler to announced the automaker’s annual earnings, creating a bit of embarrassment. Officials reportedly searched the offices and private apartments of some Audi executives, although Stadler said his home was not raided.

The raids come shortly after a round of personnel changes at Audi related to the diesel scandal. Last month, the carmaker┬ásaid it fired four engineers from its diesel division for “gross breach of duty.” Audi’s previous R&D boss, Stefan Knirsch, also left in connection with the diesel scandal. He’ll be replaced by Peter Mertens, an executive from Volvo.

Last week, Volkswagen pleaded guilty on three felony counts in a U.S. District Court for its diesel cheating. In addition to its guilty plea, the company has agreed to pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines, and $1.45 billion in civil fines. Administration of those penalties is on hold while the judge overseeing the case looks into a complaint by an attorney representing some of the affected VW diesel owners.