German Prosecutors Open Probe Into TUV SUD, Which Certified Failed Brazil Dam -- Update

日付 : 2019/12/13 @ 00 : 09
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German Prosecutors Open Probe Into TUV SUD, Which Certified Failed Brazil Dam -- Update

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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.

Vale has said the company trusts the conduct of the contractors it hires and the employees of those contractors. It also said it was committed to the safety of its structures. On Thursday, a Vale-commissioned report from experts said drainage problems were largely to blame for the dam's collapse, adding there were "no apparent signs of distress prior to failure."

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 patricia.kowsmann@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 12, 2019 09:54 ET (14:54 GMT)

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