Wolfsburg (dpa) - The Volkswagen Group is considering criminal proceedings in the bugging affair over the longstanding dispute with the former supplier Prevent. "A criminal complaint is being examined," said a spokesman for the group on Wednesday in Wolfsburg.

At the weekend it became known that VW internal conversations were recorded in a working group in 2017 and 2018, which dealt with the handling of the controversial supply group. "Volkswagen was the victim of an illegal eavesdropping attack," the company said. VW terminated the contractual relationship with the group after several delivery freezes in early 2018, since then the companies have been in court.

Meanwhile, the spy affair is apparently expanding. As the online business magazine “Business Insider” reported on Wednesday, a conversation between VW and the supplier Prevent is said to have been recorded during the time in question. In April 2017, VW agreed to continue to stand by the contracts and expressed the hope that Prevent would also adhere to them.

At this point, VW had already made the decision to control Prevent, as the industry jargon says - at least that is what the magazine concludes from further recordings. “Business Insider” says they have around 50 hours of audio recordings from 35 opportunities. VW considers the recordings to be illegal and has previously searched internally for the unknown author.

Volkswagen confirmed the meeting in April 2017. "The conversation was related to the business relationship with the Prevent company TWB," said a spokesman on request. "This and all discussions with the Prevent Group were still under the impression of the illegal delivery freeze in 2016." The "unprecedented predicament" ultimately led VW to separate from the prevent companies as a supplier in March 2018.

A Prevent spokesman said that the content of the meeting could no longer be understood today because the participating employee was no longer at Prevent. As previously announced, Prevent is reviewing legal action against VW. The group also said they had no knowledge of the recordings and had not been involved in their creation.

"This is not the first time that Prevent has been the victim of a espionage campaign initiated by Volkswagen," said the Prevent spokesman. According to reports, Volkswagen had commissioned a Berlin company a few years ago to have the "target persons" of the supplier monitored and in some cases to find out private addresses. VW had replied that it was information "within the framework of the legal regulations": "Research" was necessary to disclose the structures of the prevent network.

The parties have been arguing in court over supply relationships for years, and according to Prevent, more than ten proceedings are still pending in Germany. Volkswagen has been confirmed in the majority of the judgments so far, in one case judges of the supply group even accused “means of extortion”. The Prevent spokesman, on the other hand, said: "The media reports show that Volkswagen has behaved illegally and loyally against a supplier for years and has used extremely dubious means."

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200729-99-966378 / 2