Volkswagen's Former CEO Charged with Fraud in Germany

Cornelia Mascio
Апреля 16, 2019

German prosecutors charged former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn with fraud on Monday over his role in the carmaker's manipulation of diesel emissions testing, more than three years after the scandal came to light.

The prosecutors office in the German city of Braunschweig said in a statement that Winterkorn and four other managers faced charges.

VW first admitted in September 2015 that it had used illegal software to cheat USA emissions tests.

VW has already admitted that Winterkorn, aged 71, received a memo detailing the cheating in May 2014, but said he may not have read it.

The automaker apologized and pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the United States, where two executives were sentenced to prison and six others charged, although they could not be extradited.

Criminal proceedings against the carmaker over the rigged tests had already resulted in a one billion euro fine in June past year, marking one of the highest ever punitive payments imposed by German authorities against a company.

They also accused him of approving a "useless" software update created to hide the true reason for the cars' higher emission levels. The Braunschweig prosecutors say the indictment covers 692 pages, with an additional 300 file volumes featuring 75,000 pages, to explain the charges.

They "are accused of multiple crimes realized in a single criminal action, especially a particularly serious case of fraud and an infraction of the law against unfair competition", prosecutors in Braunschweig said.

Volkswagen admitted in 2015 that it fitted hundreds of thousands of diesel-engined cars with "defeat devices" that allowed them to beat USA emissions tests.

The scandal sparked investigations in Germany and other countries.

The prosecutors' move is one of a number of legal proceedings unleased by the scandal. Should the allegations prove true, Winterkorn and the other managers could face between 6 months and 10 years in prison.

Former engineering executive Oliver Schmidt was imprisoned for seven years in the USA for his part in hiding the software from regulators.

As well as failing to inform authorities of the cheating, VW "with the knowledge and approval of Winterkorn" issued a software update in November 2014 whose only objective was to cover up the so-called "defeat devices" that enabled the cheating, said the statement.

Investors in Germany are also seeking damages.

In a statement Felix Dörr, Winterkorn's lawyer, said the prosecutors had not given the defence enough time to read and comment on new evidence presented in the indictment.

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