Wednesday, 23 May, 2018

United States charges former Volkswagen CEO in emissions scandal

Martin Winterkorn Martin Winterkorn
Elsie Buchanan | 04 May, 2018, 10:07

The US Justice Department has filed criminal charges against Volkswagen's former chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, in connection with the diesel emissions scandal involving the German automaker.

USA prosecutors charged Winterkorn with wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to an indictment that was unsealed today.

Winterkorn, 70, has been named as a co-conspirator along with five other men who were named in an earlier federal indictment along with Oliver Schmidt, a former Volkswagen executive. The Justice Department has charged him with four felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act.

The automaker pleaded guilty in January 2017 to using false statements to import cars into the USA and to obstructing investigations, and paid $4.3 billion in penalties.

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VW has admitted fitting up to 11 million diesel vehicles with software that could falsely show they complied with emissions tests. VW executives also approved a script, "consistent with Winterkorn's alleged directive", for a meeting with CARB to hide their emissions cheating. Winterkorn and the other five - Richard Dorenkamp, Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Bernd Gottweis and Juergen Peter - are in Germany, where they are safe from extradition to the USA under the German Constitution.

According to the indictment, Winterkorn was briefed in 2015 about the situation, at which time he allegedly gave the green light to continued concealment of the vehicles' defeat devices, which were used to bypass federal emissions regulations.

"If you try to deceive the USA, then you will pay a heavy price", Sessions said. "These are serious allegations, and we will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law".

In March a year ago, VW paid a $2.8 billion fine after pleading guilty to deceiving United States regulators with the defeat devices. But only two VW engineers have been jailed after pleading guilty to participating in the conspiracy.

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