RECALL ON THE CARDS: Crisis-hit automaker Volkswagen will recall 8-million affected vehicles. Image: AFP / Michal Cizek
Frankfurt -The criminal investigation in Germany into the pollution-cheating scandal that has engulfed auto giant Volkswagen has identified "a lot fewer than 10" possible culprits, prosecutors told AFP on Friday.
Klaus Ziehe, spokesman for the prosecutors in the northern German city of Brunswick, said that "more than two, but a lot fewer than 10 people" were suspected of masterminding the scam involving sophisticated software that skews the results of pollution emissions tests in diesel engines.
After VW admitted last month to fitting around 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with the rogue software, plunging the world's biggest automaker into an unprecedented crisis, the prosecutors in Brunswick - near where VW is headquartered - launched a criminal investigation into suspected fraud.
Earlier this week, the weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported that "at least 30 people" were involved in the deception.
VW dismissed the number as "completely without basis."
The group's new chief executive Matthias Mueller said last week that four employees, including three executives in charge of engine development at different stages, had been suspended.
German press reports named two of them as Ulrich Hackenberg, development chief at VW's Audi subsidiary, as Wolfgang Hatz, his counterpart at Porsche.
But Volkswagen has not confirmed that information.
In addition to the German criminal probe, VW is conducting its own internal investigation and has hired a US law firm to help.