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VW Says Auditor Found Nothing To Back Espionage Claims, Prosecutors Persist

November 26, 1993

BERLIN (AP) _ Volkswagen said today an independent auditor has found no evidence that Germany’s biggest car maker used secret documents from a rival in making cost- cutting decisions.

But the rival, General Motors Corp.’s Adam Opel subsidiary, called the report a coverup maneuver. And government prosecutors are continuing to examine the case.

The dispute stems from the defection of GM’s purchasing chief, Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, to VW last spring.

GM said Lopez and several other GM employees took secret GM documents when they left that were then used to make purchasing and cost-cutting decisions at Volkswagen.

Volkswagen has admitted that some GM documents were at one time in its possession, and its supervisory board asked the auditors KMPG Deutsche Treuhand to examine the matter.

It said today the auditors found ″no indications that secret data from other automobile manufacturers had any influence″ on decisions Lopez made at VW.

The chairman of GM German subsidiary Adam Opel, David Herman, called the Volkswagen move an ″undignified cover-up maneuver,″ and called on Volkswagen to release the entire audit to the public.

German and U.S. prosecutors are also investigating.

A spokesman for the Darmstadt prosecutor’s office said that Volkswagen’s announcement would not halt its probe.

Spokesman Volkmar Kallenbach said investigators were still interviewing witnesses and examining evidence, including material seized in an August raid on various VW locations in Wolfsburg.

Kallenbach said prosecutors did not expect to decide whether to indict Lopez or any of his associates until 1994. He would not speculate whether the probe would take additional weeks or months.

Opel claims Lopez and seven GM employees who left with him for Volkswagen last spring systematically looted their former employer of proprietary documents and computer files.

VW and Opel have been negotiating a possible civil settlement to the dispute but have not held face-to-face talks for nearly two weeks, said Opel spokesman Bruno Seifert.

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