Die Boxcar-Kinder and the case of VW's deleted data

German investigators are looking into whether or not Volkswagen purposefully destroyed data to cover its tracks prior to admitting fault in Dieselgate.

Ulrich Baumgarten, U. Baumgarten via Getty Images

If you're going to come out and admit that you're cheating on a global scale, what else do you even have to hide?

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I'm sure you've seen a scene on television where a person or company is attempting to destroy mountains of data before it gets into the "wrong" hands. These days, it's as easy as clicking the "Delete" button. And German investigators are currently figuring out whether or not Volkswagen did exactly that.

A recent Reuters report says that German prosecutors are concerned that Volkswagen may have deleted data harmful to the company prior to admitting that it was cheating on diesel emissions tests around the world. If that's true, charges could be brought up, including but not limited to, "obstruction of justice and concealment of evidence."

The prosecutors' office told Reuters that data appears to have been deleted from machines, but some of that was transferred onto thumb drives, and not all those thumb drives have been handed over to investigators. Volkswagen did not immediately return a request for comment, although it's unlikely that the automaker will comment at all, as it's an ongoing investigation.

Volkswagen first ended up in hot water last September, when it admitted to using software workarounds to intentionally bypass emissions regulations. In lab testing environments, diesel Volkswagens would curtail their pollution output, only to emit well above legal levels once the car is on the road.

Since that time, lawsuits have sprung up around the world, and Volkswagen is preparing to pay billions upon billions of dollars (or whatever currency, really) in fines as a result of its malfeasance. Multiple countries have also pledged to do more real-world testing, in order to eliminate the possibility of copycat criminals.

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