Former VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn charged over diesel scandal in Germany

16 Avril, 2019, 09:37 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Martin Winterkorn former chairman of German car maker Volkswagen.Tobias Schwarz

Frankfurt am Main (AFP) - German prosecutors said Monday they had charged former Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn and four other managers over the group's "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal.

The 71-year-old was charged with conspiracy by the U.S. Department of Justice in May 2018 but since he resides in Germany, which doesn't normally extradite its citizens, he's been able to avoid questioning by officials.

Martin Winterkorn resigned as chief executive in September 2015 after U.S. authorities accused VW of deliberately manipulating its cars' performance under emissions test conditions - meaning its vehicle emissions seemed much less polluting than in normal driving. Winterkorn, 71, remains in Germany, which does not typically extradite its citizens for prosecution in USA courts. The company apologized and pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the United States, where two executives were sentenced to prison and several others charged, although they could not be extradited. The prosecutors are also seeking to confiscate between €300,000 and €11m in bonus payments, which were allegedly boosted by the emissions fraud.

They also accused him of approving a "useless" software update created to hide the true reason for the cars' higher emission levels.

The case, consisting of a 692-page indictment backed by 300 file volumes holding 75,000 pages, was filed in a local court in Braunschweig on Friday.

That date was more than a year before VW publicly admitted to fitting 11 million vehicles with software to make them appear less polluting in the lab than in real driving conditions. Should the allegations prove true, Winterkorn and the other managers could face between 6 months and 10 years in prison.

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The Braunschweig action is one of a number of ongoing legal actions against VW and its former top executives over the dieselgate scandal.

Former engineering executive Oliver Schmidt was imprisoned for seven years in the U.S. for his part in hiding the software from regulators.

The scandal sparked investigations in Germany and other countries. He was arrested when attempting to return to Germany following a family holiday in Florida.

Prosecutors are continuing to investigate 36 more defendants and have yet to decide whether to charge them.

Winterkorn's attorney, Felix Doerr, said that the defence could not comment on the German case because prosecutors had not provided adequate opportunity to review the case files. Volkswagen noted that the indictment was against individuals and had no further comment.

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