German prosecutors have brought charges against former Volkswagen (VW) Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn over his role in the diesel emissions-cheating scandal. Four other managers were also indicted in the case.
They “are accused of multiple crimes realized in a single criminal action, especially a particularly serious case of fraud and an infraction of the law against unfair competition,” prosecutors in Braunschweig said.
They have accused Winterkorn, 71, of a “particularly serious” fraud. The prosecutors said he failed to stop the practice, resulting in “significantly higher” fines against Volkswagen in Europe and the United States. He was also charged with embezzlement and violating competition law.
Winterkorn, who became VW’s chief executive in 2007, resigned soon after the scandal over polluting vehicles broke in 2015. VW admitted four years ago that it had fitted as many as 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with the software that could cheat emissions tests. In 2016, the company agreed to a $14.7-billion settlement with the US.
The automaker’s former boss claims that he was unaware of the issue until shortly before it became public. If found guilty, he could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission also announced last month that it was suing Volkswagen and Winterkorn. The regulator accused them of carrying out “a massive fraud.” It said that VW and Winterkorn fraudulently raised billions of dollars from investors, including by overplaying the firm’s environmental credentials.
Experts say it is unlikely that Winterkorn will ever step inside the US courtroom as Germany doesn’t extradite its citizens.