German Authorities Raid Jones Day Offices in Munich

(CN) – German authorities raided the Munich offices of the Jones Day law firm on Wednesday, suggesting authorities don’t believe the firm has handed over all documents relevant to the Volkswagen emission fraud scandal.

The search of Jones Day, which was first reported by German newspaper Handelsblatt, came just hours before executives of Volkswagen’s Audi luxury car line were to present the company’s annual report at its headquarters in Bavaria.

They also came just two days before another famous Jones Day client, President Donald Trump, welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House on Friday — their first personal encounter since he frequently criticized her during the 2016 presidential campaign.

A Jones Day partner is also serving as Trump’s White House counsel.

The firm has been handling an internal investigation for Volkswagen into the emissions scandal since 2015.

Its findings led the automaker to reach a $15.3 billion settlement last year to resolve consumer class actions. Volkswagen subsequently agreed to pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties in an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

And in February, Volkswagen agreed to pay another $1.2 billion to settle a few remaining claims and a suit brought by the Federal Trade Commission involving 75,000 3.0-liter diesel engine vehicles.

A summary of Jones Day’s findings has been provided by Volkswagen to the Justice Department, but has yet to be released publicly.

The raid is seen as a sign that German authorities are aggressively pursuing criminal charges against Volkswagen and its Audi luxury car unit.

German prosecutors are investigating more than 35 current and former Volkswagen employees in connection with the emissions fraud case, including its former chief executive.

While the company has admitted to wrongdoing and acknowledged its employees were involved, it has consistently maintained that none of its current executives were involved.

The search of Jones Day’s officers was one of a series of raids German authorities carried out Wednesday in connection with the case.

They also raided Audi’s headquarters in Ingolstadt in Bavaria, an Audi factory outside of Stuttgart, and the private homes of several employees.

The searches related to Audi, all of which were approved by a Munich judge, reportedly continued on Thursday as investigators secured electronic data.

Volkswagen blasted the search in a written statement, calling it “Unacceptable” and a breach of the “rule of law.”

“We will take all the action at our disposal against these proceedings,” the company said.