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Sources: former GM exec charged with giving secrets to VW

December 11, 1996

BERLIN (AP) _ A former General Motors executive who defected to Volkswagen in 1993 has been charged with stealing GM secrets, sources said today.

Sources at Adam Opel AG, GM’s German subsidiary, said they have received copies of the indictment charging former GM purchasing manager Jose Ignacio Lopez and three other former GM managers.

The Darmstadt prosecutor’s office said it has scheduled a news conference Friday to announce the ``filing of charges″ against Lopez for alleged betrayal of ``trade and company secrets.″

General Motors has said Lopez took documents with purchasing price lists and details for a super-efficient car factory.

The prosecutors have been investigating allegations of industrial espionage for 3 1/2 years. Volkswagen and Lopez deny any wrongdoing.

A source close to Lopez, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said today the former GM purchasing manager has not yet received a copy of the indictment. In Germany, both parties normally receive copies of the charges before they are announced.

According to Adam Opel, former GM purchasing managers Jose Manuel Gutierrez, Jorge Alvarez and Rosario Piazza also are named in the indictment. They were among seven GM managers who followed Lopez to Volkswagen.

A report from Detroit in today’s issue of USA Today quoted lawyers for the autromakers and Lopez as saying that the indictment charges Lopez and the three ex-GM managers with stealing GM plans for a super-efficient car factory and for taking a cost-cutting system tnat GM used to teach GM suppliers to be more efficient. The substance of the report could not immediately be confirmed.

In addition to the criminal case, GM is suing Lopez and VW executives in U.S. District Court in Detroit for allegedly stealing classified documents.

Criminal charges in a German court would appear to strengthen GM’s case against Volkswagen.

GM says VW must publicly admit wrongdoing, end its relationship with Lopez and the other executives, and pay GM and Opel ``substantial damages.″

Lopez resigned Nov. 30, but GM officials were dismayed when Volkswagen said it would continue to pay him for the term of his contract, and to use him as a consultant.

VW chairman Ferdinand Piech was quoted Monday as expressing regret for ``confusion and aggravation,″ but on Tuesday he was quoted in a magazine report as saying he had nothing to apologize for.

The German magazine Stern reported Tuesday that the VW supervisory board has increased pressure on Piech to settle the dispute, threatening not to renew his contract, which comes up for renegotiation in March, unless he mends fences with GM.

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