Former Volkswagen CEO charged with fraud in diesel-emissions scandal

Jeannie Matthews
April 18, 2019

German prosecutors have finally announced their intention to charge former Volkswagen Group chairman, Dr Martin Winterkorn, with fraud over the Dieselgate emissions-cheating scandal.

The events took place between November 2006 and September 2015, the prosecutors said, adding that Winterkorn had failed in his duty to inform European and USA authorities after it became clear in May 2014 that diesel engines had been manipulated.

He left Volkswagen AG board of directors in 2015 after the US Environmental Protection Agency had accused the carmaker of tampering with diesel engines to cheat at emissions tests.

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

Winterkorn's attorney, Felix Doerr, said that the defence could not comment on the German case because prosecutors had not provided adequate opportunity to review the case files.

Volkswagen has paid more than 27 billion euro in fines and settlements in the months and years since being caught.

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Prosecutors in Brunswick, near VW's Wolfsburg HQ in northern Germany, said they had charged Winterkorn and four other managers.

VW first confessed in September 2015 that it had utilized illegal software to cheat United States emissions tests.

Last year, Martin Winterkorn was charged with fraud in the United States. He also did nothing to prevent continued installation, prosecutors said.

Lastly, investors in Germany are also seeking damages, saying that Volkswagen did not meet its obligation under securities laws to give them timely notice of troubles that could affect the stock price.

He could receive up to 20 years in prison if convicted on those charges, but cannot legally be extradited from Germany to the U.S.

A Volkswagen spokesman said the company would not comment on investigations against individuals. The other four suspects weren't identified. Last year, under CEO Herbert Diess, Volkswagen had record sales of 10.83 million vehicles, making an operating profit of 13.9 billion euros.

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