News Jan 05, 2016 07:52 PM EST

Civil Lawsuit Against Volkswagen May Pave Ways For Criminal Probes

By Staff Writer

The US Justice Department has sued Volkswagen AG (VW), the German car maker, through a civil lawsuit filed with the Federal Court in Detroit on Monday. The lawsuit has sought billions of dollars in penalties in the wake of an emission- cheating crisis allegedly perpetrated by the auto giant.

The law suit has been filed by the Justice Department on behalf of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the suit, VW has installed 'defeat' devices in 580,000 diesel powered vehicles sold in the US to dupe emissions test conducted by the environment regulator. Total claimed penalty amount is as high as $ 18 billion ($30,000 per vehicle).

After being caught by the regulator in September, VW has admitted installing the software. It has been designed to trick regulators into believing its cars are less polluting than they really are. Lower emissions have been identified while conducting official tests in more than 11m vehicles across the world, reports The Guardian.

The suit isn't likely to be the final step in the U.S. government's pursuit against Volkswagen, but rather may pave the way for other actions. Monday's legal action doesn't involve criminal charges against Volkswagen or its executives, and federal prosecutors are in the midst of a separate criminal probe of the auto maker, according to a report published in The Wall Street Journal.

The lawsuit alleges that the defeat devices allowed Volkswagen models to emit far higher levels of nitrogen oxide than Clean Air Act permissible level. The emissions scandal has prompted the resignation of chief executive Martin Winterkorn during last fall, reports The Washington Post.

Moreover, VW is facing myriad lawsuits from consumers and dealers, as well as regulatory investigations in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. The company has halted sales of affected vehicles in the U.S. and is reportedly cooperating with the probes.

As aftermath of the emissions scandal, the World famous automaker has already wiped tens of billions of Euros off its share price. Analysts have warned that the total cost of the scandal may be as high as €78bn ($84.4bn, £57.4bn). VW has so far set aside €6.7bn to cover the cost of the scandal.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace activists have demonstrated at the entrance to the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. However, regulators in other countries, including India, South Korea and Germany, are also investigating into the VW scandal.

Volkswagen, the German car builder has been civil law suited by the US Justice Department, acting on behalf of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Accused of deliberately violating Clean Air Act, the auto giant may be fined up to $ 18 billion and have to face criminal charges, though it has already acknowledged committing crimes. Alongside, regulators in other countries, including India, South Korea and Germany, are also investigating into the VW scandal.

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