Swiss authorities have brought charges against a former federal road official and two import company board members who allegedly conspired to cover up the emission levels of cars they were importing. The trio illegally conspired to have the emissions information of some vehicles doctored so that they appeared to be more environmentally friendly than they actually were.
The result was that the company paid significantly less in fees that are levied against vehicles with higher emission totals. According to Euronews, the scheme likely cost the Swiss government as much as 8.5 million Euros.
Switzerland introduced higher tax rates on cars with high emissions to encourage people to buy more eco-friendly cars. By levying higher taxes on cars with high emissions totals, the government hoped to gently push the country toward more sustainable vehicles.
This is a two-pronged approach, with rebates being offered on electric vehicles to encourage drivers to switch over. By defrauding the emissions testing system, the conspiracy has allowed cars that wouldn’t normally be so affordable in Switzerland to sneak under the radar.
The scam worked by having the federal road official alter official government documents to reflect lower emissions on car imports. For these crimes, the official will face charges of forging documents, accepting bribes, commercial tax fraud, and obtaining a false certificate by fraud. The official was reportedly paid some 2,000 Swiss francs per month for their role in the scam.
The other two people charged in the case are facing similar charges for having incited the conspiracy.
The scandal in Switzerland has echoed the 2014 scandal known as “Dieselgate”. During routine testing of diesel engines, a team led by John German discovered that Volkswagen was using software to fool emissions tests on their diesel vehicles. The ensuing outrage, particularly in Europe, led to widespread testing of other brands’ diesel vehicles. The results were staggering: nearly all diesel engines were operating well over acceptable emissions levels.
In the years since Europe has tried to shore up its ability to test for emissions that can negatively affect air quality. Despite the continent’s greater emphasis on environmentalism than many other parts of the world, Europe’s regulatory boards overseeing air quality have lagged behind countries like the US.
With this latest scandal, many Europeans are wondering just how clean the air they breathe really is.