Volkswagen Group board member Olaf Lies has confirmed to BBC Newsnight that some employees knew about the emissions cheat scandal more than a year ago, but has said that the company board was only informed of the facts shortly before news broke last week. He has also stated his belief that some employees acted criminally in order to instigate the emissions cheat.
Lies, who is also economy minister of Lower Saxony, told the BBC: "Those people who allowed this to happen, or who made the decision to install this software - they acted criminally. They must take personal responsibility.
"We only found out about the problems in the last board meeting, shortly before the media did. I want to be quite open. So we need to find out why the board wasn't informed earlier about the problems when they were known about over a year ago in the United States."
VW Group statements have revealed that around 11m cars are affected by the software installed to cheat the US emissions test. To date, VW has set aside around £5bn to cover the costs, including repairs and legal action, although some analysts say that bill could triple.
Lies told the BBC the firm had no clear idea about the final cost of the scandal, but said: "Huge damage has been done because millions of people have lost their faith in VW. We are surely going to have a lot of people suing for damages. We have to recall lots of cars and it has to happen really fast."
Lies also apologised to buyers of VW Group cars in America that had now been revealed to be cheating US emissions tests - "I'm ashamed that the people in America who bought cars with complete confidence are so disappointed" - and stressed a belief that he felt the company was still strong and that it could rebuild trust with workers.