Prosecutors Investigating Link Between ‘Secret’ Documents And GM Defector
BERLIN (AP) _ German prosecutors are investigating whether Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua knew of ″secret″ General Motors’ documents found in the home of a man who defected to Volkswagen with the former GM purchasing chief.
The contention this week by GM’s German subsidiary, Adam Opel, that the documents included details of a planned top-secret model was the latest twist in a bitter dispute between auto industry giants.
GM contends the charismatic Lopez and his seven aides took proprietary information with them when they jumped over to the competitor last spring.
The documents were discovered two to three weeks ago in the Wiesbaden apartment of Jorge Alvarez Aguirre, a spokesman for the regional prosecutor’s office in Darmstadt said Tuesday.
″I cannot say that the papers we found were secret,″ said the spokesman, Georg Nauth. ″But I can say with certainty that the papers did not belong to him.″ Alvarez had worked at Opel’s headquarters in nearby Ruesselsheim.
Nauth would not confirm Opel’s contention that some of the papers among the four large boxes of documents found by prosecutors dealt with the ″O-car″ project that Lopez had been involved in.
He refused to estimate how long the investigation might last or discuss whether prosecutors believe laws were broken.
A Volkswagen spokesman said Tuesday that the company considered the investigation of the documents found in Alvarez’ former home a matter between Alvarez and the regional prosecutor.
″We asked Mr. Alvarez what sort of documents he had and he said they were old documents.″ the spokesman, Lutz Schilling, said from Wolfsburg.
Opel filed suit after Lopez’ March departure but failed to win the injunction it sought to prevent Lopez and the others from joining Volkswagen.
The ″O-car″ is conceptually a small, fuel-efficient car whose novelty would be not so much in design as in the way it would be assembled, said Opel spokesman Karl Mauer from Ruesselsheim.
Lopez jumped ship to Volkswagen at least partly because Opel refused to locate in his Basque home region of Spain the experimental ″plant of the future″ he envisioned.
Volkswagen is considering building a plant that would employ some of Lopez’ ideas - but not necessarily make something similar to the ″O-car,″ said Schilling.
He said the Basque region was among locations under consideration but stressed that company executives were not even at the point of narrowing down possibilities because the European auto market is weak.