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Economy

French police raid Volkswagen offices in emissions scandal

media The Volkswagen motors were fitted with pollution test cheating software. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Police have raided Volkswagen's French headquarters over an investigation into the massive pollution-cheating scandal that has engulfed the German car maker.

According to a judicial source on Sunday, investigators searched the company's main office in Villers-Cotterets in northern France Friday, as well as another office near Paris, seizing documents and computer hardware in the process.

France has opened a probe into possible fraud over software installed in diesel engines by Volkswagen which was designed to get around emissions tests.

The company has admitted that 11 million vehicles worldwide are equipped with the pollution-cheating programme.

In France, nearly one million diesel cars of the Volkswagen brands - VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat - have been sold in recent years fitted with the pollution-cheating software, according to VW's French unit.

Some of the vehicles with the cheat devices were found to emit 40 times the legally sanctioned levels of air pollutants called nitrogen oxides.

The World Health Organization in 2012 declared emissions from diesel engines to be carcinogenic.

In Germany, prosecutors said Friday they had identified fewer than 10 suspects in the pollution-cheating scandal.

The revelations about VW's manipulation of its diesel engines constitute one of the biggest scandals in the history of the automobile sector.

Chief executive Martin Winterkorn was forced to resign -- replaced by Matthias Mueller, the former boss of the group's luxury sports brand Porsche.

The auto giant has said it will recall a total of 8.5 million diesel vehicles in Europe alone and will incur significant costs repairing so many vehicles.

In addition, the reputation of the once household name of Volkswagen is in tatters.

It now faces billions of euros in potential fines and legal costs, aside from the incalculable fallout from lost sales and diminished customer trust.

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