VW offices, employees' homes raided by German prosecutors

Meanwhile Volkswagen's American head is in Congress' sights

As European officials dither about new emissions rules, German prosecutors got real and raided Volkswagen's headquarters on Thursday.

The German car-maker said it was supporting the investigation and had handed over documents related to the diesel-gate scandal. French authorities are also going after the company following the discovery last month by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it was rigging its emissions tests.

The so-called "defeat device" was used on around 11 million vehicles worldwide, meaning that cars on the road were emitting far beyond the legal thresholds as tested in laboratories. According to VW, only vehicles with Type EA 189 engines were involved, but it added that it was still investigating to what extent the software interfered illegally with vehicles.

But prosecutors from Braunschweig are taking no chances and, according to Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, raided the private homes of some VW employees suspected of fraud, as well as VW offices.

Also on Thursday afternoon, Michael Horn, head honcho of Volkswagen America, is up before a US Congressional panel. He will be grilled about how much he knew about emissions cheating and when.

In a published statement to the law-makers before the hearing, he admitted that he knew of possible problems as early as Spring 2014.

"Emissions software in four-cylinder diesel vehicles from model years 2009-2015 contained a 'defeat device' in the form of hidden software that could recognize whether a vehicle was being operated in a test laboratory or on the road. The software made those emit higher levels of nitrogen oxides when the vehicles were driven in actual road use than during laboratory testing," he said.

There has already been a purge of top jobs at VW, but more heads may yet roll. ®

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