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Fresh probe over VW's illegal bonuses

Nik Martin with DPA
April 21, 2019

A VW manager, charged recently alongside former CEO Martin Winterkorn, is now being investigated over nearly $1 million in bonuses. The huge cash pile was paid after the Dieselgate emissions scandal came to light.

VW logo
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Stratenschulte

A former top Volkswagen manager is being investigated on suspicion of breach of trust after he received huge bonuses from the German auto giant in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal.

The Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday that the manager who specialized in technical development for the Wolfsburg-based car firm is facing a preliminary probe over whether he received unjustified gratuities.

The German business daily Handelsblatt later partly identified the manager as Hanno J. He was one of four executives charged on Monday along with ex-VW chief Martin Winterkorn for their roles in the emissions-cheating affair.

Read more: Opinion: The lies of Martin Winterkorn

Investigators believe he was one of the main drivers of the scam. All five VW executives deny the allegations.

As well as facing from six months to 10 years in jail if found guilty, the executive may have to forfeit any bonuses earned from sales based on the manipulation, a statement from the public prosecutor's office in the city of Braunschweig said following the earlier charges.

The new probe concerns payments that VW continued to make to Hanno J. even after the scandal broke. While other top executives implicated in Dieselgate had their contracts terminated, Hanno J. continued to work for VW and, on top of his salary, received bonuses of €866,000 ($974,000) between 2016 and 2018, according to Bild.

Read more: European Commission finds German automakers illegally colluded on emissions technology

Handelsblatt said prosecutors were also likely to focus on VW executives who approved the high bonus payments.

A VW spokesman confirmed Sunday that the preliminary investigation was underway.

Dieselgate erupted in September 2015 when it emerged that the German carmaker had programmed computers in its vehicles to detect when they were being tested and altered the running of diesel engines to conceal the true level of emissions.

Volkswagen has already incurred costs of €29 billion related to the scandal, much of that in the United States by way of fines, compensation and buyback schemes.

Read more: As Dieselgate scandal widens, will Germany finally tackle transport emissions?

In Germany, it has paid €1.8 billion in two fines. The company is also facing cases brought by hundreds of thousands of customers in Germany wanting compensation for having bought vehicles whose emissions were manipulated.

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.

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