Former VW boss and four executives charged over 'dieselgate'

Galtero Lara
Abril 15, 2019

German prosecutors said on Monday they were pressing criminal charges against former Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn in connection with the automaker's manipulation of diesel-emissions testing.

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.

Winterkorn remains in Germany, which does not typically extradite its citizens for prosecution in USA courts.

He stepped down as VW's boss in 2015.

VW said it would not comment because the company was not a party to the proceedings.

Prosecutors said Winterkorn was accused of a particularly serious case of fraud, breach of trust and breaching competition laws because he had not acted - despite having a special responsibility to do so as the company's CEO - after it became clear on May 25, 2014, that diesel engines had been manipulated.

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Prosecutors said Monday that Winterkorn knew about the deceptive practice since at least May 2014, and failed to put a stop to it.

The company has admitted installing software that could tell when the cars were on test stands for emissions certification.

He neglected to inform authorities in Europe and the United States as well as customers of the illegal software and he also did not prevent the continued installation of such software, the prosecutors said.

Beyond that, Volkswagen has paid more than 27 billion euros (currently $31 billion) in fines and civil settlements with authorities and vehicle owners in the months and years since being caught. Volkswagen has said it met its duty to investors. They said investigations into another 36 suspects in the diesel-emissions scandal were ongoing and it was unclear when they would be wrapped up.

That in turn has undermined carmakers' plans to use diesels - which get better mileage - to help meet tougher European Union limits from 2021 on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. Volkswagen says it plans to spend 30 billion euros to develop electric vehicles by 2023.

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