Former VW boss Winterkorn charged over diesel emissions scandal

Roman Schwartz
May 4, 2018

Federal prosecutors in the United States have charged former Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, accusing him of conspiring to mislead regulators about the German automaker's diesel emissions cheating.

Mr Winterkorn has been accused of conspiring to mislead regulators about the fraudulent emissions testing, defrauding United States customers, and wire fraud, making him the ninth person to be hit with USA criminal charges connected to the "Dieselgate" scandal. The allegations and eventual admission led to billions erased from the company's coffers, Winterkorn's ouster, a worldwide scandal, and one conviction of a VW executive in the far.

The indictment describes a July 27, 2015 meeting at which Volkswagen employees presented PowerPoint slides to Winterkorn and "other senior VW AG management at an in-person meeting at VW's headquarters in Wolfsburg".

The indictment unsealed today says that around March 2014, Winterkorn learned of a study taking place at West Virginia University's Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines, and Emissions that showed that VW diesel vehicles were giving off emissions beyond legal limits.

Martin Winterkorn was indicted on four counts of conspiracy and wire fraud, becoming the most senior VW executive to be charged in connection with the scandal.

Indictment comes in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

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A Volkswagen spokesman told AFP the company "continues to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals", but said, "It would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases". All men are German citizens and are believed to be in Germany.

The charges stem from the VW Group diesel emissions scandal that broke in 2015. About 11 million Volkswagen vehicles, including half a million in America, were secretly and deliberately equipped with "defeat devices" that allowed them to cheat diesel emissions tests. In March 2017, VW pleaded guilty to the criminal charges and acknowledged that it had installed software created to modulate harmful nitrogen oxide output depending whether the vehicle was being tested or driven on a road.

Volkswagen, the world's largest auto manufacturer, acknowledged in 2015 that it equipped more than 11 million diesel vehicles with software that allowed them to emit excess pollution and cheat on emissions tests.

"The US Attorney's Office is committed to pursuing accountability for corporate crimes, and the Winterkorn prosecution is a reflection of that commitment".

The indictment charges that Winterkorn then instructed Schmidt and another VW employee to continue to deceive USA regulators at a follow-up meeting in August, "using excuses such as "irregularities" and "abnormalities" for the discrepancy".

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