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Ex-VW CEO charged in the US over Dieselgate

May 3, 2018

US prosecutors have filed charges against Martin Winterkorn, the former CEO of German carmaker Volkswagen, over his involvement in the Dieselgate scandal. Winterkorn is accused of conspiring to mislead US regulators.

A rusty VW logo
Image: picture alliance/dpa/F. von Erichsen

Prosecutors have charged former VW chief Martin Winterkorn with conspiring to mislead US regulators over a diesel emissions scandal.

Winterkorn, who resigned in September 2015 in response to the scandal, said he was not aware of any wrongdoing at the time of his resignation.

Read more: EU report blames 'Dieselgate' on widespread political negligence

On Friday, the company released a short statement: "Volkswagen continues to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals. It would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases."

The facts of the case

  • The indictment was unsealed on Thursday in a district court in Detroit after prosecutors filed charges against Winterkorn in secret in March.
  • The indictment says Winterkorn was twice informed the company had cheated US emissions tests — once in May 2014 and again in July 2015 — well before the scandal became public in 2015.
  • In total, Winterkorn is charged with three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act.
  • A court spokesman said Winterkorn faces up to 25 years in prison and a maximum fine of $275,000 (€230,000) if found guilty.
  • A spokeswoman for the US attorney's office in Detroit said Winterkorn is not in custody.

'All the way to the top'

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the charges show "Volkswagen's scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company."

VW said it would not comment on individual legal cases and added it was still cooperating with the US Department of Justice.

Read more: Volkswagen calls for delay of US trial over lawyer's Nazi jab

Unlikely to go to court: The US has said it believes Winterkorn is in Germany. But if the 70-year-old is in Germany, he is unlikely to face the charges in a US courtroom as the German government rarely permits extradition requests for its citizens.

Not the only one: US prosecutors have already charged eight VW managers in connection with the scandal. Two have already pleaded guilty and six have avoided extradition to the US by staying in Germany.

German investigation ongoing: German authorities are conducting a separate investigation into Winterkorn and other VW executives' involvement in the emissions scandal. The group have been accused in Germany of committing fraud and engaging in market manipulation.

VW boss: Carmaker must become 'more open'

amp/aw (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)

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