The popular German automaker has been charged with 60 counts of contravening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Environment and Climate Change Canada said the charges include 58 counts of “unlawfully importing nearly 128,000 vehicles that did not conform to prescribed vehicle emission standards” in a statement on Monday. They said the company is also charged with two counts of providing misleading information.
A spokesperson for Volkswagen AG said the company has “cooperated fully” with the investigation. A court appearance is scheduled Friday in the Ontario Court of Justice, where Volkswagen said they intend to submit a proposed plea resolution and seek its approval.
A source speaking on background told Global News the proposed plea resolution “addresses and will resolve all charges.”
The spokesperson said the details of proposed resolution will be presented at the hearing.
The charges come after a lengthy investigation launched by Environment Canada in Sept. 2015 that focused on certain car models allegedly equipped with a “defeat device” — software that reduces the effectiveness of the emission control system while a person is driving.
“Officers gathered an extraordinary quantity of evidence and information from foreign and domestic sources related to the suspected violations of federal environmental legislation,” Environment Canada said in a statement. They added their investigators spent months poring over information, analyzing and preparing the evidence for Public Prosecution Service of Canada review.
The German car company has been facing emissions scandals across both abroad and at home that have cost the company billions of dollars.
Last year, German authorities fined Volkswagen $1.5 billion in connection with a diesel emissions scandal after prosecutors concluded that Volkswagen failed to properly oversee the activity of its engine development department, resulting in some 10.7 million diesel vehicles with illegal emissions-controlling software being sold worldwide.
The scandal, which came to light in the United States in 2015, had already cost the company $20 billion in fines and civil settlements in the U.S.
Four years ago, Volkswagen admitted to installing software on 11 million cars worldwide to trick emissions-testing equipment into concluding the cars ran more cleanly than they actually did, which triggered the Canadian investigation.
At the time, Volkswagen was accused of installing software in diesel engines in Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi vehicles in the U.S. that activated pollution controls during government tests and switched them off in real-world driving. The software allowed the cars to spew harmful nitrogen oxide at up to 40 times above the legal limit.
The company’s CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged with wire fraud and conspiring to violate the U.S. Clean Air Act as a result. Two lower-ranking Volkswagen executives were sentenced to prison in the United States, while five others that were charged have yet to be apprehended.
Winterkorn resigned shortly after the scandal became public and was succeeded as CEO by Matthias Mueller, who was then replaced by Herbert Diess in April 2018. Hans Dieter Poetsch was chief financial officer at the time and became chairman of the supervisory board in late 2015.
In 2017, six high-level Volkswagen employees from Germany were indicted in the U.S. in the Volkswagen emissions-cheating scandal, while the automaker itself agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay $4.3 billion — by far the biggest fine ever levied by the government against an automaker.
While announcing the charges and the plea bargain, Justice Department prosecutors detailed a large and elaborate scheme inside the automaker to commit fraud and then cover it up, with at least 40 employees allegedly involved in destroying evidence.