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Peugeot is charged in France for dieselgate, after Renault and Volkswagen


After Volkswagen in May and Renault on Tuesday, Peugeot was charged on Wednesday with "fraud" in France in the investigation into the "dieselgate" scandal, thus unlocking a file that had been stalled for years and that could also lead to the indictment of Citroën and Fiat-Chrysler.

In a statement, Stellantis, parent of Peugeot, announced the indictment of its subsidiary "over allegations of fraud over the sale of Euro 5 diesel vehicles that took place in France between 2009 and 2015."

"Our subsidiaries are firmly convinced that their emission control systems met all the requirements applicable at the time and continue to respect them today, and are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to demonstrate this," the group added.

A judicial source on Wednesday confirmed Peugeot's charge on the charge of "fraud that carries a danger to the health of the human being or the animal".

A report by the DGCCRF (Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention), transmitted to the courts in February 2017, mentioned a "global strategy aimed at manufacturing fraudulent engines, and then marketing them".

According to the researchers, PSA (Peugeot-Citroën) sold between September 2009 and September 2015 in France some 1.9 million Euro5 diesel vehicles (standard in force until 2015), "whose engine works according to fraudulent strategies".

Given the violations observed, the DGCCRF estimated that the company incurred a maximum fine of 5,000 million euros (6,000 million dollars).

- In Paris and Berlin -

A colossal sum but four times less than the maximum fine, 19,700 million euros ($24 billion), assessed by the DGCCRF for Volkswagen.

The manufacturer was charged on May 6 with "fraud on the substantial qualities of a good that carries a danger to the health of the human being or the animal," a judicial source told AFP.

The German giant on Wednesday reported its accusation in France in a statement in which it challenges that there is "harm" to consumers in this country.

At the same time, former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn was accused of false testimony in Germany before a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the rigged engine scandal, according to German prosecutors.

The dieselgate, which has triggered legal action in many countries, has already cost Volkswagen 30 billion euros ($36 billion), largely in the United States, where the German group pleaded guilty to fraud in 2017.

In 2015 Volkswagen acknowledged having equipped 11 million of its diesel vehicles with software capable of hiding emissions that sometimes exceed 40 times the authorized standards. Since then, diesel car sales have plummeted.

- Citroën and Fiat? -

In France, DGCCRF investigations also edified "the deliberate nature of the fraud" by Volkswagen. They claim that the German group sold nearly 950,000 diesel vehicles, equipped with the fraudulent device, on French territory.

Volkswagen has already challenged the judges' analysis.

In addition to being charged, all these companies are subject to judicial control accompanied by substantial guarantees for the eventual payment of damages and fines: up to 20 million euros ($24 million) for Renault, and strong bank guarantees to compensate for possible damages and up to 60 million euros ($73 million) for Renault and Volkswagen.

"All the elements seem to confirm the infringements committed by the various manufacturers. The owners of the damaged vehicles do not understand that a trial will not be held as soon as possible," françois Lafforgue, lawyer for the associations "Ecologie sans frontières", "Respire" and a hundred vehicle owners, reacted on Wednesday.

The dieselgate scandal is the subject of various legal reports in France.

Investigations into this scandal have long been held back by a legal battle before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

On Tuesday, Renault was the first to announce that it had been charged.

On the list are several possible additional targets: Citroën, then Fiat-Chrysler, also belonging to the Stellantis group.

The indictment is a preliminary step to possible prosecution in France.

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