German Prosecutors Open Probe Into TUV SUD, Which Certified Failed Brazil Dam -- Update
By Patricia Kowsmann
Prosecutors in Germany have opened a criminal probe into the
role of German safety inspector TÜV SÜD over the January collapse
of a mine-waste dam in Brazil that killed 270 people.
A spokeswoman for the Munich prosecutor's office described the
investigation as preliminary, but declined to further comment on
its scope. In Germany, a preliminary investigation is a
prerequisite for criminal charges being filed. Such probes can also
end without charges if the prosecutors decide there isn't
sufficient evidence to bring a case to court.
It is the first investigation of TÜV SÜD in Germany following
the deadly dam collapse at a mine owned by Brazilian giant Vale SA.
TÜV SÜD, a privately held company, carries out certification and
safety auditing work across a range of industries, including
telecommunications, railways and health care.
TÜV SÜD's Brazil unit audited and certified the failed dam, in
the town of Brumadinho, as stable twice last year before its
collapse on Jan. 25. The Wall Street Journal subsequently reported
that employees of TÜV SÜD, as well as Vale, knew for months of
dangerous conditions at the dam. TÜV SÜD employees certified the
dam as safe, expressing worry about losing contracts with Vale, a
major client, the Journal reported.
Until now, only Brazilian authorities were known to be probing
TÜV SÜD's role. In September, Brazilian police accused six
employees from the auditing firm of covering up structural dangers
at the dam during safety audits. Prosecutors in Brazil are also
probing the company's role.
A spokesman for TÜV SÜD wasn't available for comment. In the
past, the company has said the one-page certificate that addresses
a dam's stability is a snapshot of safety at the time it is
written, not a long-term guarantee of its safety.
The company has also said that even though it ultimately passed
the dam as stable, the report its employees wrote, in its entirety,
made clear the conditions at the dam. Attorneys for some of those
charged individually denied wrongdoing by their clients.
The spokeswoman for the Munich public prosecutors' office said
it opened a preliminary investigation following a complaint it
received from families of some of the victims in October. "Further
details, in particular on the status of the investigations, we
cannot communicate for tactical reasons," she said.
In the days after the disaster in late January, the Journal
reported that TÜV SÜD worked for Vale both as a consultant and as
an independent safety evaluator of the dam, raising questions among
experts over potential conflicts of interest.
--Alistair MacDonald in London contributed to this article.
Write to Patricia Kowsmann at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 12, 2019 09:16 ET (14:16 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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