BMW Korea has effectively won an administrative lawsuit it has filed against the 62 billion won (US$53 million) fines imposed by the Korean government for its fabrication of emission certification documents or its failure to report changes in emission test reports.
The Seoul Administrative Court told the Ministry of Environment on Dec. 29 to cancel 58.3 billion won (US$50 million) of the fines it has levied on BMW Korea.
Earlier, BMW Korea was accused of committing emission certification fraud and was convicted by the Supreme Court in September. The Environment Ministry imposed the fines apart from the criminal trials. Yet the court ordered the ministry to cancel most of the fines because it interpreted the relevant law too broadly in sanctioning the automaker.
In 2017, BMW Korea was found to have tampered with emission certification documents or have not received certifications, and as a result, the certifications were revoked and the company was subject to fines.
Specifically, the Seoul Customs Office confirmed that BMW Korea falsified the vehicle emission test reports for 28 models between July and November 2012, and failed to report the changes in the emission test reports for another three models. The customs office notified the Environment Ministry of its findings.
Accordingly, the ministry imposed on Dec. 5 a fine of 58.3 billion won (US$50 million) on BMW Korea for its certification document falsification and 4.43 billion won (US$3.8 million) for failure to report changes in emission test reports.
BMW Korea refused to accept the fines as it found that the ministry stretched the meaning of the legal clause in levying the fines. While the carmaker was convicted of falsifying certification documents, the clause the ministry used to impose a 58.3 billion won in fine was about non-certification. The automaker asserted that the fine for certification falsification should not exceed 1 billion won (US$0.8 million).
The court sided with BMW Korea and ruled that the 58.3 billion won (US$50 million) fine was illegal and should be canceled. It said the smaller fine was legitimate.
"The Clean Air Conservation Act should be strictly interpreted as violations of the law lead to criminal punishment as well as fines," the court said. The court explained that the phrase "not certified" cannot be interpreted as including the case of obtaining certification through unlawful means.