The lawyer representing about 500 people in Switzerland who have filed a complaint against German carmaker Volkswagen and importer AMAG says the Swiss attorney general is dragging his feet in the so-called ‘Dieselgate’ case.
Geneva lawyer Jacques Roulet formally wrote a letter to the Swiss justice minister, Karin Keller-Sutter, complaining about the alleged delays “in a case of national importance,” according to news agency Keystone-SDA.
The letter points out that the Federal Criminal Court had ordered the attorney general to initiate criminal proceedings against Volkswagen AG, AMAG and AMAG's affiliates and employees in November 2016. Since then, the attorney general’s office had remained “inactive.”
According to Roulet, Switzerland’s public prosecutor “did not carry out any investigative measures other than the sorting of documents”. There were no indictments and no hearings.
The lawyer also states his surprise that while the case is making legal progress abroad, in Switzerland it seems to be stalled.
The Office of the Attorney General highlighted the specifics of the case in response to the allegation. More than one terabyte of data, corresponding to 1.8 million documents, had to be collected and analysed to establish their relevance for the investigation.
In addition, requests for assistance have been sent to Germany, but have not yet been answered. The attorney general said the lawyer could use judicial channels to possibly have a violation of the principle of speed established in the case.
Roulet points out that the offense for which he is pursuing Volkswagen and AMAG retain a limitation period of 7 years. The limitation period for some charges have already passed. For others, “it remains unlikely” that a judgment will be rendered by 2019 or 2020, he reckons.
In Switzerland, the Dieselgate scandal affected some 170,000 owners of VW Group vehicles. Of these, about 2,000 people filed a criminal complaint with the Public Prosecutors’ Offices of several cantons. These complaints were finally collected and investigated.
The Volkswagen emissions scandal began in September 2015, when the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States accused the Volkswagen group of violation of environmental laws.
Since 2015, the German car-making group has paid more than €27 billion (CHF30.6 billion) to settle investor and consumer lawsuits as well as regulatory fines and remedies tied to resolving excessive emissions levels in its diesel cars.