German prosecutors target former VW CEO over Dieselgate

16 April 2019

16 April 2019

German prosecutors are pressing formal charges against former Volkswagen (VW) Group CEO Martin Winterkorn in connection with the Dieselgate scandal.

Four other executives are also charged, the prosecutor’s office in Brunswick said in a statement. The group are accused of fraud and violation of competition law.

Winterkorn is highlighted as he was a ′guarantor’ to the knowledge of the manipulation of diesel engines, to which the German carmaker has admitted, and the distribution of affected vehicles, which has caused problems for customers. The former CEO’s failure to act and failure to disclose the manipulation to authorities in the EU and US are also reasons for his charges.

The court also states that the corporation, with knowledge and approval of Winterkorn, conducted a software update in November 2014 at the cost of €23 million, which was designed to continue obscuring the real reason for the increased levels of pollutants in normal vehicle operation.

Criminal proceedings against VW Group over the testing scandal had already resulted in a €1 billion fine in June 2018, while the company is facing claims from consumer groups in Europe, demanding compensation for owners of affected vehicles. However, the German manufacturer has continuously denied that it cheated EU testing.

VW was caught using illegal engine control software in US pollution testing in September 2015, and to date, has paid €29 billion in fines. The scandal has also brought about the demise of diesel sales, with governments increasing taxes and media demonising the technology.

′The indictment of Mr Winterkorn and other accused persons by the public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig [Brunswick], which has now become public, is related to investigations against individuals,’ Volkswagen said in a statement, adding it would not comment on that case. Winterkorn’s lawyer Felix Doerr said he could not immediately comment.

The other four suspects were not identified.

The Brunswick prosecutors said people accused of particularly serious fraud could face up to 10 years in prison in Germany. They said investigations into another 36 suspects in the diesel emissions scandal were ongoing and it was unclear when they would be wrapped up.

Winterkorn was charged with alleged conspiracy and wire fraud by US prosecutors in May 2018. This action has not proceeded due to jurisdictional issues. Last month, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took Volkswagen and Mr Winterkorn to court, alleging investors had been defrauded. The claims are being contested.