Volkswagen adds two ombudsmen to improve its image

German automaker Volkswagen AG said Monday it has added two independent ombudsmen in a step to improve its image, tarnished recently by a corruption scandal. The two men, Rainer Buchert and Thomas Rohrbach, both attorneys, will investigate any leads and forward their findings to the company. At Volkswagen, a team of experts will follow up, the company said. "Corruption is not a trivial offense," said CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder in a letter to all VW employees worldwide. "With both corruption and bribery, the self-seeking behavior of very few individuals harms many innocent people. That is why corruption in any form whatsoever must be rigorously and comprehensively exposed."

Buchert spent several years with Germany's federal police; Rohrbach is a specialist in labor and tax law. Last year, VW called in prosecutors to investigate Klaus-Joachim Gebauer, who worked in the personnel department in company headquarters in Wolfsburg until he was fired in June, and former Skoda manager Helmuth Schuster. The two were alleged to have set up fake companies in countries including India and the Czech Republic to defraud local authorities seeking business with VW.

Gebauer claims he was unfairly dismissed, while Schuster resigned June 15 after being accused. Authorities are also looking into whether members of Volkswagen's works council received illegal privileges including lavish foreign trips, paid for by the company, that managers concealed.

In November a court also ordered two lawmakers to hand over Ђ766,000 (about US$930,000) they were paid by Volkswagen to the state of Lower Saxony, saying they had broken a state law that makes it illegal for parliamentarians to receive salaries without doing any work in return, reports the AP. N.U.