Autos: Former Volkswagen boss accused of serious fraud in Dieselgate scandal

Former Volkswagen chief executive officer (CEO) Martin Winterkorn and four other VW executives have been accused of serious fraud, among other things, in the proceedings of the Volkswagen diesel scandal, the public prosecutor’s office in the German city of Brunswick announced on Monday.

The Brunswick prosecuting authority accused the five executives of having committed “a majority of criminal offences in a single criminal act.”

Winterkorn “is accused of a particularly serious case of fraud, a violation of the law against unfair competition as well as breach of trust”.

Even though he knew about the manipulations on diesel engines, Winterkorn had failed to disclose the manipulations either to authorities in Europe and the U.S. or to its customers, according to the public prosecutor.

The prosecuting authority accused Winterkorn of a breach of trust because he did not immediately disclose the illegal manipulations of diesel engines after becoming aware of them.

The former CEO “had failed to stop the further installation of the cheating devices” or to prohibit the sale of the vehicles with these devices, the public prosecutor stated.

In addition, with Winterkorn’s knowledge and approval, a “useless” Volkswagen software update had been carried out in November 2014 at a cost of 23 million euros (26 million U.S. dollars) that “was intended to further conceal the true reason for the increased pollutant levels in normal vehicle operation,” said the prosecuting authority.

Following the court’s decision, Winterkorn’s lawyer responded that the charges had been brought without giving the former Volkswagen boss the opportunity to “take note of all files of the proceedings” and to comment on them.

The authority in Brunswick is investigating 36 Volkswagen employees in the proceedings on software manipulations of nitrogen dioxide emissions of diesel cars.

The “diesel emissions scandal” began in 2015 when it became known that Volkswagen had installed an illegal shutdown device in the engine control of its diesel vehicles.

The device was intended to circumvent the statutory limit values for car exhaust gases. According to Volkswagen, the software is installed in around eleven million vehicles worldwide.

As a result of the scandal, Winterkorn resigned as Volkswagen CEO in 2015 and the company has already paid fines of 29 billion euros. (one euro currently equals to 1.13 U.S. dollars)