Former VW boss Winterkorn charged over diesel emissions scandal

Former VW boss Winterkorn charged over diesel emissions scandal

The charges, filed in March, were unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court, the same day as Volkswagen's annual meeting in Germany.

Volkswagen, the world's largest auto manufacturer, acknowledged in 2015 that it equipped more than 11 million diesel vehicles with software that allowed them to emit excess pollution and cheat on emissions tests.

The four-count indictment unsealed Thursday charges Winterkorn, 70, with three counts of wire fraud and one of conspiring with other senior VW executives and employees to violate the Clean Air Act. Sessions added the government will "prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law".

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Mr Winterkorn, who resigned from the company as a storm erupted over the company's behaviour in September 2015, has always maintained he knew nothing about software created to cheat lab emission tests. Volkswagen settled criminal charges with the USA justice department in 2017 and agreed to a $4.3 billion payment. Two have already pleaded guilty and have been jailed.

Five other VW execs and managers have been indicted but remain at large. Volkswagen has also been forced to buy back over 5 lakh running vehicles from owners, which have now been stored in lots around the country.

Winterkorn is believed to be residing in Germany, which makes it hard for the United States to prosecute.

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A lawyer for Winterkorn in Germany did not immediately comment. One former manager of VW's subsidiary Audi AG, Giovanni Pamio, 61, an Italian citizen, has been charged by complaint and now remains in Germany pending extradition.

VW management quickly learned of the results of the study and discussed potential consequences flowing from the revelations. Eight other individuals have now been charged by United States authorities in the scandal.

The indictment is, however, likely to be largely symbolic. The scheme came undone when a company employee, in response to a regulator's questions, admitted that VW had been using software to cheat on emissions tests.

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When the USA began looking into the discrepancies found between the declared and discovered emissions levels, Winterkorn chose to hide the "defeat device in responding to questions from United States regulators, while appearing to cooperate, " Ars Technica reports. That doesn't mean he will be safe from prosecution in Germany, though.

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