Charges against Lopez expected in US and Germany 'in months'

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(First Edition)

BONN (Reuter) - The United States and Germany will probably press charges against the Volkswagen executive Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua for allegations linked to his transfer from General Motors, according to Opel, GM's German unit.

David Herman, the Opel chairman, said that he expected 'charges to be pressed in the next few months in the United States and Germany against Mr Lopez for breach of trust, suppression of evidence and violating competition rules'. Mr Lopez left GM for VW last year.

State prosecutors in Hamburg said two sworn statements by Mr Lopez in preliminary hearings were contradictory.

Ruediger Bagger, spokesman for the state's attorney, said an investigation into statements made by Mr Lopez in a hearing to determine whether the magazine Spiegel may repeat charges of industrial espionage against Mr Lopez had been concluded.

'We have determined that two sworn statements (by Lopez) contradict one another. Now it is a question of how to judge this legally,' he said. Mr Herman also said that orders for the Omega model, to come on the market at the end of April, already totalled 40,000 in Europe, of which 19,000 were from Germany.

An Opel spokesman said there had been significant increases in orders for the Corsa, with 10,700 new registrations in January, 8,500 in February, and 'more than 12,000 in March'.

Opel expects to deliver 100,000 Corsas in Germany and 440,000 in Europe this year. The spokesman said Opel expected about the same level of total car orders and market share as it had in 1993.