Papers seized at VW 'similar to GM documents': Prosecutor to speak on Lopez investigation

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The Independent Online
THE GERMAN state prosecutor investigating Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, number two at Volkswagen, on suspicion of industrial espionage, is to issue a statement today which is expected to identify for the first time strong resemblances between information seized at the German car maker and sensitive documents reported missing by its American rival, General Motors.

The Darmstadt prosecutor's statement is based on a lengthy interim report on the year-long investigation handed to the justice ministry of the state of Hessen.

This report is said to contain details of several batches of documents, taken during a police raid on VW's headquarters, which have been identified as virtually identical to those which General Motors and its European subsidiary, Opel, claim disappeared at the time of Mr Lopez's switch to the German firm.

In a related development the state prosecutor's office in Hamburg was reported to be deciding this week whether to bring charges against Mr Lopez on counts of perjury over statements made under oath regarding the circumstances of his departure from GM and his denials that he received certain information prior to leaving.

The Darmstadt prosecutor's office said yesterday that its criminal investigation into Mr Lopez was not complete and could go on for a further few months before any decision on charges could be taken.

However, its interim report, according to sources familiar with the case, states that close similarities between information at Volkswagen and GM-Opel have been identified in several key areas, notably the plans for building a revolutionary lean-production car plant.

Mr Lopez, who originally developed the idea when at GM, has repeatedly called such a project his dream plant, which he hopes to have built in his home town in the Basque country. Disappointment at GM's refusal to build the plant was given by Mr Lopez as his main reason for going to Volkswagen.

The prosecutor's interim report is believed to state that three-quarter's of VW's plans for such a plant are similar to GM's.

Resemblances are also reported in plans for the small car to be built in such a plant. Opel sources confirmed that staff had been asked by the prosecutor to identify similarities between the company's own information and documents reportedly seized from VW.