Former VW boss charged over diesel emissions scandal

Marco Green
April 15, 2019

German prosecutors have brought charges against former Volkswagen (VW) Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn over his role in the diesel emissions-cheating scandal.

In a statement, prosecutors accused Mr Winterkorn of a "particularly serious" fraud, as well as a breach of competition laws.

Prosecutors in Braunschweig said Monday that Winterkorn knew about the deceptive software since at least May 25, 2014, despite his public statements he only became aware of the issue shortly before the scandal broke in September 2015. He was also charged with embezzlement and violating competition law.

They said Mr Winterkorn should have alerted vehicle owners and authorities in Europe and the U.S. about the manipulation of diesel emissions tests sooner. He also failed to prohibit the further installation of the so-called "defeat devices", resulting in significantly higher fines in the US and Germany, the statement said.

Beyond that, Volkswagen has paid more than 27 billion euros in fines and civil settlements with authorities and vehicle owners in the months and years since being caught.

That contradicts Winterkorn's testimony in the German parliament that he didn't learn of the problem until shortly before USA investigators announced it in September 2015.

The prosecutors allege that Winterkorn approved a software update in November 2014 at a cost of 23 million euros, which was "useless and was meant to further hide the true reason for the increased pollutant levels in normal vehicle operation".

Experts say it is unlikely that Winterkorn will ever step inside the U.S. courtroom as Germany doesn't extradite its citizens. Winterkorn, 71, remains in Germany, which does not typically extradite its citizens for prosecution in US courts. The company apologized and pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the United States, where two executives were sentenced to prison and several others charged, although they could not be extradited.

In a related case, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Winterkorn last month, saying U.S. investors were informed too late about the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, alleging "massive fraud".

Winterkorn's attorney, Felix Doerr, said that the defense could not comment because prosecutors had not given them adequate opportunity to review the case files.

A spokesman for Winterkorn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The other four suspects were not identified. It did not give the names of the other four or say whether they were still employed by Volkswagen. "I do not expect to be charged", Diess said on the sidelines of the Shanghai auto show.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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