A former head of the Shin Bet internal security service and a former Israeli ambassador to Germany on Thursday denied claims that they tipped off a senior figure from the Volkswagen car manufacturing company about developments in the ‘Dieselgate‘ test emissions scandal.
German media this week linked Yuval Diskin, who led the Shin Bet from 2005 to 2011 and Avi Primor, the ambassador to Germany from 1993 to 1999, to the scandal, saying they had prior knowledge of the scandal and gave the information to a senior Volkswagen executive. The accusations are part of a bitter dispute between VW executives over who knew what and when about the fraud.
None of the reports specified how or why Diskin would have obtained the information on the emissions fraud.
In September 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency served a Notice of Violation on Volkswagen, alleging that some 480,000 VW and Audi vehicles had been fitted with software able to dupe tests by concealing real pollution emissions.
Two of the most senior figures forced to resign at that time were Ferdinand Piëch — a former chairman and CEO of the Volkswagen Group, who was then serving as the chairman of VW’s supervisory board, and Martin Winterkorn, then chairman of the board of directors of the Volkswagen Group’s parent company, Volkswagen AG.
Piëch had to resign in April 2015, Winterkorn five months later.
According to a report Wednesday by the online version of the German magazine Der Spiegel, Piëch met in February 2015 with Primor, who was accompanied by Diskin.
Piëch claimed that Primor showed him a document indicating that the Americans had already informed Winterkorn about the emissions fraud.
According to the German Bild newspaper, he told German prosecutors about this document in December and said he had raised the matter with Winterkorn soon after meeting the two Israelis in 2015.
Winterkorn, one of 37 people currently under criminal investigation, told a parliamentary committee in Berlin last month that he had not been made aware of the fraud and that he would have taken care of it had he known.
He denied that Piëch’s document existed, as did other individuals Piëch claimed to have spoken with. One charged that Piëch was acting out of revenge because he had been forced to resign.
Primor confirmed that the meeting took place and told Der Spiegel, “I am a friend of Diskin’s. I did him a favor. We were together at other German companies. I’m only responsible for making the introductions. I wasn’t involved in any business deals. I’m not saying anything about the VW scandal.”
A report in WirtschaftsWoche quoted Primor saying he had not discussed diesel emissions with Piëch.
Diskin had reportedly attended the meeting for business reasons — to try to interest Volkswagen in a cyber security company he had founded.
For him, the meeting evidently went well, because in 2016, Volkswagen founded Cymotive Technologies together with him, in which a VW subsidiary, Auto Vision, owns a 40 percent share. The company is based in the Israeli coastal town of Herzliya.
In a follow-up article in Der Spiegel, Diskin rejected Piëch’s version of events, saying suggestions that he had prior information about the emissions scandal were “utter nonsense” and that the first he had heard about it was when it was publicized by the media.
The scandal has already cost the car maker more than $23 billion in fines and other costs, according to a Bloomberg news agency report published Wednesday.