Report: VW scandal grows as CEO acknowledges suspected expenses abuse

BERLIN: Abuses by officials at Volkswagen AG may have cost the firm hundreds of thousands of euros (dollars), its chief executive said in comments published Saturday, broadening a scandal that has seen several executives stand down. 

VW had said that prosecutors and auditors were looking into allegations that managers sought kickbacks from suppliers and were secretly involved in firms seeking VW contracts abroad. 

In an interview with the Bild newspaper, VW chief executive Bernd Pischetsrieder said auditors were also examining whether members of the company's powerful works council abused expense accounts. 

"We cannot rule out that travel expenses were not properly accounted for,'' Pischetsrieder was quoted as saying. "It seems that the damage could run into six figures.'' 

Pischetsrieder said media reports suggesting that VW used the expense accounts to bribe members of the works council with free luxury trips to European cities and other perks were "absurd.'' 

Prosecutors last month began looking into bribery allegations against two personnel executives, amid reports that one of them took money from Volkswagen suppliers. The company's top labor representative, Klaus Volkert, also resigned abruptly. 

On Friday, VW said its personnel chief, Peter Hartz, an adviser to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, submitted his resignation "to take political responsibility for the irregularities of individual employees.'' 

The company's supervisory board is to decide whether to accept the resignation on Tuesday. -AP

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