Prosecutors Say Secret GM Documents Were Ordered By Lopez
BONN, Germany (AP) _ GM documents found in the home of an aide to Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua include secret plans ordered by Lopez, apparently when he knew was defecting to Volkswagen, prosecutors said Thursday.
The announcement was likely to further damage the embattled Volkswagen executive. General Motors Corp. accuses him of systematically gathering and making off with trade secrets before his abrupt March departure.
Accusations against the Spaniard, formerly GM’s purchasing chief, have stung Volkswagen AG as it attempts to restructure.
Volkswagen officials had no immediate comment on Thursday’s announcement.
The Wolfsburg-based company, which lost 1.25 billion marks, about $732.5 million, in the first quarter of 1993, hired Lopez to cut costs. It plans to cut 12,000 jobs in Germany by the end of next year.
On Tuesday, a Hamburg court ruled against VW’s attempts to gag the newsmagazine Der Spiegel, which reported in a May cover story that Lopez and seven confidants took piles of documents when they jumped from GM to VW.
Auto industry analysts say the ruling has hurt Volkswagen’s credibility so badly that it should cut Lopez loose.
The Darmstadt state prosecutor’s office said four cartons of documents and slides were found by police June 21 in the Wiesbaden apartment of Jorge Alvarez Aguirre, who switched to VW with Lopez. They included copies of plans for the development of a super-efficient assembly line that would produce the small, fuel-efficient ″O-car.″
Lopez has said he left GM because it refused his request to build such a plant in Spain. But he denies he took plans for the O-car, which he helped develop for GM’s German subsidiary, Adam Opel.
The confiscated documents also include information on sales and cost-saving techniques and on the newest Opel Vectra model, according to prosecutors.
″Some of the documents and slides were produced at the express wish of Dr. Lopez,″ said Georg Nauth, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office. He refused to say when the documents were produced, but another spokesman suggested it was after Lopez had decided to leave GM.
Prosecutors refused to say what charges were being considered against Lopez.
The U.S. Justice Department confirmed last week it has also been investigating the case. It has refused to say, however, who is under investigation.
Before his March 15 departure, Lopez was based at GM’s Detroit headquarters.