United States prosecutors charge former VW chief Winterkorn

United States prosecutors charge former VW chief Winterkorn

United States prosecutors charge former VW chief Winterkorn

The charges stem from the VW Group diesel emissions scandal that broke in 2015.

The indictment was unsealed in Detroit on Thursday, revealing that Winterkorn had been charged on March 14 with wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud VW's American customers and violate the Clean Air Act.

A lawyer for Winterkorn in Germany did not immediately comment.

"It is not comprehensible why I was not informed early and clearly about the measurement problems", he said. The other three counts concern wire fraud tied to the scheme. Five other VW executives were also charged in the indictment. 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. "The indictment unsealed today alleges that Volkswagen's scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company".

The superseding indictment was issued by a federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of MI and charges Winterkorn with four counts of violating federal law. VW executives also approved a script, "consistent with Winterkorn's alleged directive", for a meeting with CARB to hide their emissions cheating.

VW's new chief executive on Thursday in Berlin, Herbert Diess, vowed to make the carmaker "more honest" as it fights to recover from the diesel emissions scandal, but wary investors called for outside vetting of steps to restore its reputation. Volkswagen continued to deny the existence of defeat devices until the summer of 2015.

In July 2015, when the USA threatened not to re-certify Volkswagen diesels because their emissions numbers were so off, Winterkorn asked his employees for a briefing on the situation.

A spokeswoman for the USA attorney's office in Detroit said Winterkorn is not in custody. Initial claims by VW had suggested that the cheating was only known by lower-level executives, but the indictment suggests that the former CEO was alerted to the situation as far back as 2014. One Italian citizen, former Audi manager Giovanni Pamio, is in Germany awaiting extradition. The indictment claims that Winterkorn became aware of the company's diesel cheating as early as May 2014, but he agreed with other executives to "continue to perpetrate the fraud and deceive US regulators".

"As CEO I took political responsibility", the 69-year-old Winterkorn said during a German parliamentary inquiry in January 2017, adding that, "this step was the most hard of my life".

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