A real small number of people may have cost Europe's largest automaker a whole lot of money. The number of Volkswagen employees that orchestrated the diesel-emissions scandal that's rocked the automotive industry was likely fewer than 10, according to the public prosecutor's office in Braunschweig, Germany. The report contrasts another article from Der Spiegel saying that as many as 30 people were involved. Volkswagen has denied that report, saying that the number of people involved was smaller, though didn't specify how many.

Regulators continue to search out who to blame for the cause of millions of Volkswagen diesel engines that were programmed to cheat emissions tests around the world. Last month, VW said as many as 11 million vehicles may have been impacted, triggering worldwide calls for recalls and repairs to the vehicles. VW's CEO resigned as a result, and the company set aside $7.3 billion to address the issue. Do the math (if all these figures are correct), and we get to a minimum of $73 million per person involved, and it may be higher.

From here on out, the issue may get murkier. Reuters reports that the automaker may have rigged as many as four different types of engines during the past seven years. German regulators have collected documents from VW's Wolfsburg, Germany, headquarters while calling for a recall by early next year. And other reports say that the US Justice Department will continue to seek larger penalties for the automaker if it's discovered that a larger group of employees were involved in the scandal than VW executives have admitted.

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