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Business

European stocks end choppy session higher on vaccine hopes

(Reuters) – Hopes of a COVID-19 vaccine pulled European stocks from losses earlier on Wednesday, after fears of a no-deal Brexit and anxieties relating to the European Union’s recovery fund had weighed on sentiment.

Ending a choppy session, the pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.2%, with blue-chip indexes in Paris .FCHI, Milan .FTMIB and London .FTSE down about 0.2%

Markets on both sides of the Atlantic got a boost as a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and German biotech firm BioNTech (BNTX.O) showed promise and was found to be well tolerated in early-stage human trials.

A series of business surveys released earlier showed broad improvements in manufacturing across Europe and Asia as economies opened up, with IHS Markit’s final euro zone Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) moving closer to the 50-mark separating growth from contraction in June.

Improving economic data out of the United States also buoyed sentiment.

“The coronavirus vaccine news coupled with ADP datapoint are acting as positive catalysts, lifting investor sentiment,” said Stephane Ekolo, a strategist at TFS Derivatives.

The STOXX 600 shed more than 1% in afternoon trading as German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that there was a possibility that no deal would be agreed between the European Union and Britain, with “very limited” progress made in negotiations about their future relationship.

This comes as rating agency S&P Global cut its UK forecasts for the year again and warned of a possible “perfect storm” formed by a second wave of coronavirus infections and a no-deal Brexit.

Investors were also anxious about the European Union member states approving a 750 billion euro recovery fund at a summit later this month.

Morning trading in some European markets, including Germany’s DAX .GDAXI and Austria .ATX, was hit by a “technical issue” with the Frankfurt-based cash market system Xetra, exchange operator Deutsche Boerse (DB1Gn.DE) said.

After a nearly three-hour outage, the DAX was down 0.4% and the Austrian index rose 0.3%.

Among individual stocks, Swiss speciality chemicals maker Clariant (CLN.S) jumped 7% as it completed the $1.6 billion sale of its masterbatches unit to PolyOne Corp (POL.N), allowing the payment of a special dividend amounting to $3 per share.

Energy firms such as BP (BP.L) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) rebounded from losses in the previous session as oil prices rose after a report showed U.S. crude stockpiles posted a bigger drop than expected. [O/R]

Travel & leisure stocks .SXTP were the top gainers.

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World News

UK flood warning: Part of country on alert – Flooding MAPPED

Just days after seeing highs of 33C, temperatures are expected to drop below average for the time of year as the UK returns to the on and off rain of earlier in June. Issued this afternoon, England’s Environment Agency has a warning out for the Lake District, in particular the area around Keswick Campsite, which sits on the north edge of the water.

The Government’s Flood Information Service reports: “The level of Derwentwater remains high as a result of the heavy rain that fell over the weekend.

“Consequently, there is flooding to low lying areas bordering the shores of Derwentwater and the frontage of the Keswick Camping and Caravan Club Site.

“The level of Derwentwater is slowly falling, but is still high.

“Please avoid using low lying footpaths which may be flooded. This message will be updated as the situation changes.”

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The Government has three levels of flood warning – Prepare, Act, and Survive.

This particular flood warning comes under Act – which the Environment Agency advises anyone in the area to turn off gas, electricity and water, move belongings and pets upstairs, and moving vehicles to higher ground.

Unfortunately the weekend isn’t set to bring sunnier skies, with drizzle and heavy rain forecasted in some parts.

Despite this, the Met Office has reported a low risk of flooding across England and Wales for the rest of the week and weekend.

The report reads: “Local flooding from surface water is possible but not expected in parts of the south and central England on Thursday.

“Local flooding from surface water and rivers is possible in parts of Yorkshire, and possible but not expected elsewhere in parts of the north of England and Wales on Friday and Saturday.

“Properties may flood and there may be travel disruption.”

Weather over the rest of the week and weekend is expected to be bright in parts but unfortunately there will still be showers across the UK.

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The Met Office reports for Thursday, July 2: “Cloudy across central parts with rain gradually dying out.

“Sunny spells with scattered heavy showers and isolated thunderstorms across southern areas. Mostly dry across northern areas.”

Some brighter weather will be seen in the south of England during the weekend, with a mixed bag forecast for elsewhere.

The Met Office report reads: “Dry and bright in the south Friday, cloudy elsewhere with rain, heavy in places.

“Generally cloudy with rain at times Saturday.

“Rain spreading southeastwards Sunday, sunny spells and showers following.”

High pressure is expected to arrive on British shores next week, meaning some relief from wet a dreary days.

Temperatures are expected to remain the same with some warmer spells and clearer skies all around.

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World News

Russians grant Putin right to extend his rule until 2036 in landslide vote, initial results show

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russians appeared to have paved the way for Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036 by voting overwhelmingly for a package of constitutional changes which will also boost pensions, initial results of a nationwide vote showed on Wednesday.

Partial results, announced five hours before polls closed, indicate the former KGB officer who has ruled Russia for more than two decades as president or prime minister will win the right to run for two more terms. That means he could remain president for 16 more years.

The Central Election Commission said just over 70% of votes counted across the world’s largest country had supported changing the constitution. Almost 29% had voted no of the 2.68% of ballots counted. Fuller results are due at 1900 GMT.

Russians have been encouraged to vote with prize draws offering flats and an ad campaign highlighting other constitutional amendments in the same reform bundle, such as the pensions protection and a de facto ban on same-sex marriages.

One-off payments of 10,000 roubles ($141) were transferred to those with children at Putin’s order as people headed to polling stations on Wednesday, the last day of the vote, held over seven days to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“I voted for the amendments to the constitution,” Moscow resident Mikhail Volkov said. “We need radical changes and I’m for them.”

Others voted for the changes with less enthusiasm.

“I didn’t read about the amendments if I’m honest,” another voter, Lyudmila, said. “What’s the point of voting if they’ve already decided for you. It’s like that in our country – read something and vote. I voted.”

Turnout had reached nearly 60% by midday, election officials said. The required turnout is 50% and the amendments will pass if they are backed by a simple majority of voters.

Putin, 67, made no mention of how the changes could affect his own career in an eve-of-vote speech on Tuesday. They would allow him to run for another two six-year, consecutive stints after his current term expires in 2024.

Putin has said he has yet to decide on his future. Critics say they are sure he will run again, but some analysts say he may want to keep his options open to avoid becoming a lame duck.

At 60%, according to the Levada pollster, his approval rating remains high but well down on its peak of nearly 90%.

With Russia reporting thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day, opponents have been unable to stage protests but have mocked the vote online, sharing photographs of polling stations in apartment stairwells, courtyards and the boot of a car.

SMALL PROTESTS

A small group of activists staged a symbolic protest on Red Square on Wednesday using their prostrate bodies to form the date – 2036 – before being swiftly detained by police, TV Rain reported.

The “No! Campaign,” called on supporters to vote against the changes and then discuss the result on Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square while respecting social distancing rules.

“We need to remind the authorities that we exist and that there are tens of millions of us who do not want Putin to rule until 2036,” Andrei Pivovarov, an activist, said in an online video.

Mass gatherings are banned in Moscow due to the virus and Pivovarov’s suggestion of a public discussion was carefully worded. He avoided calling on people to gather, saying only that he wanted to discuss the vote’s outcome “with other free people” and would be in the square on Wednesday evening.

More than a dozen police vehicles were parked in the square beforehand, where a lone masked protester stood with a sign saying “I/We are the constitution”.

The opposition Communist Party, which has advised supporters to vote “no”, has complained of irregularities.

Gennady Zyuganov, its leader, said that Putin and voters needed to weigh the consequences of sticking to the Russian leader’s policies, which he said had failed the economy.

“Putin needs to choose,” said Zyuganov. “For him the moment of truth is coming.”

Putin has said he wants a clean vote, something election officials have pledged to deliver.

Golos, a non-governmental organisation that monitors elections, has said it will not be able to confirm the outcome of the vote as legitimate.

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World News

UK weather forecast: Britain braced for 27C scorcher as heatwave RETURNS in July – Charts

Britain is set to bake in some of the highest temperatures this year as forecasters warn temperatures could soar to a sizzling 27C. According to maps from WXCharts, the UK may see highs of 24C over this coming weekend, with temperatures rising in time for Britons to leave their homes with coronavirus restrictions easing across the country.

However, and in the second week of July there are “signs that the weather may become drier, more settled and warmer again”.

And in some areas temperatures will soar to a hot 27C.

Weather maps from NetWeather show in the first full week of July temperatures will continue to rise across the country, with up to 26C possible in London by Friday, July 10.

That will see Britain return to the scorching weather of the June heatwave which saw millions rush to UK beaches.

Netweather maps forecast 27C in the south of England on July 14, with maps turning red with heat that week.

The forecast reads: “It looks as if relatively dry, settled and warm conditions may be established at the start of this period, bringing some sunshine for most parts, particular southern and central areas.

“The northwest may still be more changeable with nearer normal temperatures.”

Maps from WXCharts also show temperatures rising from Saturday, July 4 onwards – turning red as the mercury heats up.

And the Met Office forecast states between July 15 and July 29: “Most likely continuing settled overall, but confidence in the longer range forecast is low (typical for this time of year).

“Plenty of dry, fine weather around, with the most likely scenario seeing rain increasingly moving away from the northwest bringing more prolonged settled weather here too.

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“A greater likelihood than earlier in the month of warm or even hot episodes across the south, especially south-east, with a chance, albeit still low, of thunderstorms.

“Temperatures are expected to be above average overall.”

It comes as restrictions begin to ease in England on Saturday, July 4.c

Britons will have the chance to basque in the sunshine in pub gardens this weekend after venues were forced to close their doors more than three months ago to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Europe is also due to enjoy hot weather over the coming weekend as a heatwave also hits the continent.

Spain and Germany could see scorching highs of 43C by Sunday.

 

While, France will be hit with highs of 31.5C on Saturday, rising to 33.3C by the following Wednesday.

Most of Europe will enjoy temperatures of more than 30C over the first week of July.

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World News

China chaos: Australia plans long-range hypersonic missile system as tensions erupt

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged to boost the country’s defence budget by 40 percent over the next 10 years and announced plans to acquire long-range missiles and other capabilities to “deter” future conflicts. It comes amid deteriorating relations between Australia and China which are widely seen to be at their worst in decades.

We want an Indo-Pacific free from coercion and hegemony

Scott Morrison

Mr Morrison said the steps were needed because the region had become the “focus of the dominant global contest of our age”.

He listed several areas of tension including the border between India and China, and conflict over the South China Sea and East China Sea.

And he said Australia would pivot its military focus to the Indo-Pacific region.

He said: “We want an Indo-Pacific free from coercion and hegemony. We want a region where all countries, large and small, can engage freely with each other and be guided by international rules and norms.”

Although Mr Morrison did not name China, Australia’s muscular posturing towards the Pacific is seen as a signal that Canberra intends to be more assertive in its dealings with Beijing and less reliant on the US.

The new defence capability budget, which amounts to about 2 percent of GDP – replaces a previous decade-long strategy.

Australia will purchase from the US Navy up to 200 long-range anti-ship missiles, which can travel up to 229 miles.

It will also invest in developing a hypersonic weapons system – missiles which can travel thousands of miles.

Up to £12bn is being earmarked for cyberwarfare tools which Mr Morrison said “says a lot about where the threats are coming from”.

Last month, he warned that Australian institutions and businesses were being targeted by cyber attacks from a “sophisticated state actor”.

The remarks were broadly interpreted as aimed at China.

Mr Morrison said tensions between the US and China had been ramped up in recent years warned relations between the two were “fractious at best”.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had worsened the tensions and put the global security order at its most unstable point in decades.

And he also warned the region was seeing “military modernisation” at an unprecedented rate.

He said: “The largely benign security environment that Australia has enjoyed, basically from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the global financial crisis, that’s gone.

“The risk of miscalculation – and even conflict- is heightening.”

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Mr Morrison said Australia would vigorously defend its democratic values and those of others in the region and insisted increasing military capabilities would help “to prevent war”.

Security analysts have interpreted the shift as Australia taking a more defined opposition to China’s increasing influence in the region.

Sam Roggeveen, director of the Sydney-based Lowy Institute’s International Security Program, said: “China is the unspoken elephant in the room.

“While it’s absolutely right that we focus on our region, but buying long-range missiles – particularly ones for land targets – could invite a response from Beijing.”

Relations with its biggest trading partner have further deteriorated in recent months following Australia’s push for a global probe into the origins of the COVID-19 virus.

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World News

Mexican president to hold bilateral Trump talks on July 8

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will hold bilateral talks in Washington with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on July 8 as part of a trip to mark a new North American trade deal, Mexico’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Mexico’s government proposed the two-day talks in Washington to celebrate the July 1 start of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is replacing the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Trilateral matters, which include Canada, will be on the agenda on July 9, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told a news conference alongside Lopez Obrador.

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Politics

5 takeaways from Colorado’s 2020 primary election

Tuesday’s statewide primary elections boasted record-high turnout and a short list of interesting contests in both parties. Here are hot takes on the results from members of The Denver Post’s politics team:

The unexpected marquee race

Colorado’s marquee matchup, watched closely in Washington, D.C., as well as here, was supposed to be the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. But when the dust had cleared, it was a congressional election in western Colorado that proved most fascinating.

Newcomer Lauren Boebert’s defeat of five-term U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District’s Republican primary shocked most political observers — along with Tipton, who skipped some candidate forums and didn’t campaign like an incumbent at risk.

Boebert owns a Rifle restaurant called Shooters Grill and gained prominence as a vocal advocate for Second Amendment rights. She portrayed Tipton, a solid conservative who backs President Donald Trump, as insufficient on both counts. She vowed to be a fighter, to do battle with liberals “for the heart and soul of our country.”

That passionate line of attack — painting Tipton as part of the establishment — worked with Republicans and unaffiliated voters who cast ballots. Now Boebert will face Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democratic former lawmaker who lost to Tipton in 2018.

The 3rd District could be close

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent several election cycles hoping there was a candidate who would make the 3rd District competitive. They finally found one, she just happens to be a Republican.

Immediately after Boebert’s win Tuesday night, Crystal Ball moved the race from the Likely Republican column to Leans Republican. Tipton won by 8 points in the general in 2018, and conventional wisdom says it will be closer with a nonincumbent running.

The DCCC wasted no time criticizing Boebert, and you can expect it to spend significant amounts of money to boost Mitsch Bush between now and November.

More Coloradans are voting in primaries

More than 1.4 million ballots were cast this month, an impressive 40%-plus turnout rate, according to the Secretary of State’s Office website. That’s about 300,000 more ballots than in the gubernatorial primary just two years ago, and it’s a new record for nonpresidential primaries in Colorado.

There’s no clear answer for why that is, but there is plenty of speculation out there, as our colleague John Aguilar wrote about Tuesday afternoon.

Despite that large number of votes cast, the counting process seemed to go smoothly — and quickly — Tuesday. That’s important at a time when mail ballots, the pride of Colorado’s electoral system, are under attack by some top Republicans.

Hick still has that election magic

John Hickenlooper was expected to win Tuesday. He was, perhaps, not expected to win 63 of Colorado’s 64 counties in the process.

Take liberal Boulder County, for example. Hickenlooper beat the progressive Andrew Romanoff by 6 percentage points, or nearly 4,000 votes, there. When Romanoff faced Michael Bennet, who’s ideologically similar to Hickenlooper, in 2010, Romanoff won Boulder County.

Or take Denver, another progressive hot spot. Romanoff won Denver in 2010 by 6 percentage points but lost it Tuesday by nearly 10.

It’s clear that despite a number of primary hiccups, Hickenlooper, who pointed out again Tuesday that he has never lost an election in Colorado, remains popular with the rank and file.

RMGO-backed candidates take a hit

The common denominator among a number of the Republicans who appeared headed to statehouse primary losses Tuesday was the support and financial backing of far-right groups such as Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Republicans with ties to those groups.

That doesn’t bode well for House GOP Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who is closely affiliated with RMGO. The primary election results give traction to the threatened challenge for his leadership post from a faction of the GOP that thinks Republican lawmakers should have more leeway to represent their sometimes more moderate districts.

Candidates like incumbent Rep. Colin Larson of Littleton, who won his contested primary Tuesday, reject suggestions that they’re not conservative enough. And as Larson noted, primary voters agreed with him.

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World News

Russians given money as vote that could extend Putin's rule draws to a close

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia gave families financial windfalls on Wednesday on the final day of a vote on constitutional changes that could allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036, a prospect that prompted a small protest by Kremlin critics on Red Square.

State exit polls have suggested more than two thirds of voters will back the changes. They have been encouraged to vote with prize draws offering flats and an ad campaign highlighting other amendments with popular appeal.

One amendment guarantees inflation-linked pensions; another proposes a de facto ban on same-sex marriages.

One-off payments of 10,000 roubles ($141) were transferred to those with children at Putin’s order as people headed to polling stations on the last day of the vote, held over seven days to try to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

“I voted for the amendments to the constitution,” Moscow resident Mikhail Volkov said. “We need radical changes and I’m for them.”

Others voted for the changes with less enthusiasm.

“I didn’t read about the amendments if I’m honest,” another voter, Lyudmila, said. “What’s the point of voting if they’ve already decided for you. It’s like that in our country – read something and vote. I voted.”

Related Coverage

  • Nearly 73% of Russian voters have backed changes that could extend Putin's rule – Initial results

Turnout had reached nearly 60% by midday, election officials said. The required turnout is 50% and the amendments will pass if they are backed by a simple majority of voters.

Putin, a 67-year-old former KGB officer who has ruled Russia for more than two decades as president or prime minister, made no mention of how the changes could affect his own career in an eve-of-vote speech on Tuesday.

First results are expected at 1900 GMT.

TWO MORE TERMS?

The amendments would allow him to run for another two six-year, back-to-back stints if he wishes after his current term expires in 2024.

Putin has said he has yet to decide on his future. Critics say they are sure he will run again, but some analysts say he may want to keep his options open to avoid becoming a lame duck.

At 60%, according to the Levada pollster, his approval rating remains high but well down on its peak of nearly 90%.

With Russia reporting thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day, opponents have been unable to stage protests but have mocked the vote online, sharing photographs of polling stations in apartment stairwells, courtyards and the boot of a car.

A small group of activists staged a symbolic protest on Red Square on Wednesday using their prostrate bodies to form the date – 2036 – before being swiftly detained by police, TV Rain reported.

The “No! Campaign,” called on supporters to vote against the changes and then discuss the result on Moscow’s Pushkinskaya Square while respecting social distancing rules.

“We need to remind the authorities that we exist and that there are tens of millions of us who do not want Putin to rule until 2036,” Andrei Pivovarov, an activist, said in an online video.

Mass gatherings are banned in Moscow due to the virus and Pivovarov’s suggestion of a public discussion was carefully worded. He avoided calling on people to gather, saying only that he wanted to discuss the vote’s outcome “with other free people” and would be in the square on Wednesday evening.

The opposition Communist Party, which has advised supporters to vote “no”, has complained of irregularities.

Gennady Zyuganov, its leader, said that Putin and voters needed to weigh the consequences of sticking to the Russian leader’s policies, which he said had failed the economy.

“Putin needs to choose,” said Zyuganov. “For him the moment of truth is coming. Today’s vote is very significant, the people should express their will,” said Zyuganov.

Putin has said he wants a clean vote, something election officials have pledged to deliver.

Golos, a non-governmental organisation that monitors elections, has said it will not be able to confirm the outcome of the vote as legitimate.

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World News

UK says China's security law is serious violation of Hong Kong treaty

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom said China’s imposition of a security law on Hong Kong was a “clear and serious” violation of the 1984 Joint Declaration and that London would offer around 3 million residents of the former colony a path to British citizenship.

Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested nearly 200 people as protesters took to the streets in defiance of sweeping security legislation introduced by China that they say is aimed at snuffing out dissent.

“The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitute a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament on Wednesday.

Johnson said Britain would stand by its pledge to give British National Overseas (BNO) passport-holders in Hong Kong a path to British citizenship, allowing them to settle in the United Kingdom.

Almost 3 million Hong Kong residents are eligible for the passport. There were 349,881 holders of the passports as of February.

Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” agreement enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Hong Kong was handed back to China on July 1, 1997, after more than 150 years of British rule – imposed after Britain defeated China in the First Opium War. China had never recognised the “unequal treaties” allowing Britain’s rule of Hong Kong island, the Kowloon peninsula and later its lease of the rural New Territories.

HONG KONG ROW

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain had carefully assessed China’s national security legislation since it was published late on Tuesday.

“It constitutes a clear violation of the autonomy of Hong Kong, and a direct threat to the freedoms of its people, and therefore I’m afraid to say it is a clear and serious violation of the Joint Declaration treaty between the United Kingdom and China,” Raab told Reuters and the BBC.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.

Raab said he would set out shortly the action Britain would take with its international partners.

“China, through this national security legislation, is not living up to its promises to the people of Hong Kong,” Raab said. “We will live up to our promises.”

Asked about how the West should deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Raab said:

“Obviously, China is a leading member of the international community. And it is precisely because of that, that we expect it to live up to its international obligations and its international responsibilities. For trust in China’s ability to do that, today has been a big step backwards.”

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Business

German authorities search Continental, VW as part of diesel probe

BERLIN (Reuters) – German prosecutors have extended their diesel emissions probe to include auto supplier Continental (CONG.DE) for its role in supplying engine components, searching the company’s offices and those of automaker Volkswagen, the companies said on Wednesday.

Prosecutors in Hanover, Germany conducted the searches as part of an investigation into how a 1.6 litre diesel engine came to violate emissions rules by masking excessive pollution levels.

Premises in Hanover, Regensburg, Wolfsburg, Gifhorn, Berlin, Frankfurt und Nuernberg were searched by 76 Police and 4 prosecutors, a spokesman for the Hanover prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

“We are investigating employees of Continental for abetting fraud and for providing false documentation,” Prosecutor Oliver Eisenhauer told Reuters, adding that 7 engineers and 2 project leaders were among the accused. Two business heads and a compliance officer were also cooperating with the probe, he added.

Continental said in a statement that several of its offices had been searched, adding it was cooperating with the authorities, but declined to comment on the investigation.

A Volkswagen spokesman said the carmaker was cooperating with the probe in the capacity as a witness, given that VW has already settled with prosecutors in Braunschweig.

The Hanover prosecutor’s office said the Hanover probe was an extension of the prior probes against Audi and VW.

The WirtschaftsWoche magazine had earlier reported that prosecutors in the northern German city of Hanover had searched offices of Continental and carmaker Volkswagen.

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