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Former VW CEO indicted in US over ‘dieselgate’ role


Martin Winterkorn, then-chief executive officer of Volkswagen, attends the company’s annual news conference in Berlin on March 13, 2014.

Photo: AFP

Former Volkswagen AG chief executive officer Martin Winterkorn has been indicted in the US over his alleged role in the German auto giant’s “dieselgate” scandal, court papers on Thursday showed.

Winterkorn’s indictment brings the US criminal case to the uppermost levels of Volkswagen, which last year pleaded guilty to lying to US environmental regulators about emission control systems.

“If you try to deceive the United States, then you will pay a heavy price,” US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

“The indictment unsealed today alleges that Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company,” he said.

Winterkorn faces four counts, including conspiracy to defraud the US and wire fraud.

Prosecutors say Winterkorn knew of the company’s emissions cheating as early as May 2014, but decided to continue with the fraud, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

In the summer of 2015, months before the scandal broke, Winterkorn chaired a “damage table meeting” at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, where engine development staff delivered a presentation on how the company was deceiving US regulators and what consequences it would face if it were caught, the Department of Justice said.

Following the meeting, Winterkorn also authorized the company to continue lying to US authorities.

Winterkorn resigned in September 2015, following revelations of the company’s emissions cheating, in which it configured as many as 11 million diesel-powered vehicles worldwide, including 600,000 in the US, to emit up to 40 times the permissible levels of harmful nitrogen oxide, but to hide this during testing.

Eight other individuals have now been charged by US authorities in the scandal. Two VW engineers have been jailed after pleading guilty to participating in the conspiracy.

Winterkorn is charged along with five other Volkswagen executives and employees who were indicted last year, court papers showed.

They include former senior engine development and quality managers.

The scandal has so far reportedly cost the auto giant as much as US$30 billion in criminal fines, class-action settlements and environmental remediation.

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