Ex-VW CEO Martin Winterkorn charged with Dieselgate crimes

Ann Santiago
May 4, 2018

VW officials did not comment on the indictment, which was filed in secret in March and unsealed today.

The superseding indictment was issued by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of MI and charges Winterkorn with four counts of violating federal law.

"Volkswagen deceived American regulators and defrauded American consumers for years", said Matthew Schneider, US Attorney for the State of MI, in a statement.

Two have so far pleaded guilty and are serving time in prison.

The indictment alleges that by the summer of 2015, U.S. regulators threatened to withhold authorization for VW to sell Model Year 2016 diesel vehicles in the United States until VW answered their questions about the discrepancies uncovered by the ICCT study. All of this stems from a diesel emissions scandal that ultimately found VW paying $4.3 billion in penalties.

The 70-year-old German, who was chairman of VW's management board at VW from 2007-2015, was indicted by a grand jury in Detroit federal court on charges of conspiracy to defraud the USA, wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act.

Winterkorn was among the first wave of executives ousted by VW Group as the emissions cheating debacle came to light late in 2015.

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

Winterkorn, now aged 70, has thus joined a select group of several other Volkswagen employees indicted in the now infamous Dieselgate scandal in the U.S. According to the papers, the CEO was at one point informed of the illegal practices of the company and made a decision to cover them up.

The indictment describes a July 27, 2015 meeting at which VW employees presented PowerPoint slides to Winterkorn and "other senior VW AG management at an in-person meeting at VW's headquarters in Wolfsburg". The prosecution alleges that Winterkorn may have known of the cheats as early as 2014.

The fraud, uncovered in September 2015, involved VW engineers designing vehicle models in such a way that they would fool the official emissions tests.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused VW of using a so-called "defeat device" on its 2.0-liter turbodiesel. 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.

Indictment comes in U.S. District Court in Detroit. VW halted the sale of new diesels in the United States after the scandal.

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