FRANKFURT -- German prosecutors opened a new criminal investigation into possible tax violations in the wake of Volkswagen Group’s admission that it manipulated emissions readings.
Prosecutors in Brunswick, who are already looking into VW’s diesel cars, are now formally examining faulty emission readings in gasoline-powered vehicles, spokesman Klaus Ziehe said by phone Tuesday.
The damage caused by the tax evasion is "not insignificant," a separate member of the prosecutor's office told Automotive News Europe.
A additional probe was necessary since the accusations involve other cars and other people, he said.
Five suspects are being investigated, Ziehe said, without identifying them.
VW said Nov. 3 an internal probe showed about 800,000 cars mainly in Europe had “unexplained inconsistencies” in their CO2 output, which is a key measure for setting tax rates for motor vehicles.
The company estimated the financial risk of the manipulation of CO2 ratings at about 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion). That sum includes paying governments for missing tax revenue.
Drivers pay less taxes in Germany for owning cars with lower emissions. Improperly labeled cars with higher-than-marketed emissions may lead authorities to reclaim the tax breaks, and prosecutors are targeting the company for those violations.
Volkswagen set aside 6.7 billion euros in the third quarter for fixing diesel cars with engine software that allowed them to pass emission tests by illegally restricting pollution during testing. Unlike for diesel pollutants, there is no fix for excessive CO2 emissions.
Prosecutors in Brunswick are already looking into VW's diesel engines. Investigators last month raided the automaker's headquarters and other offices as part of their probe into the carmaker's rigging of diesel-emissions tests.
VW revealed in September that a number of its diesel engines were equipped with software designed to fool emissions testers, affecting about 11 million vehicles worldwide.
Automotive News Europe, Reuters and Bloomberg contributed