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US Justice Department charges former VW CEO with conspiracy, wire fraud
04 May 2018, 10:45 | Lionel James
Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn Charged with Conspiracy and Wire Fraud
Prosecutors have charged former VW chief Martin Winterkorn with conspiring to mislead U.S. regulators over a diesel emissions scandal.
"The US Attorney's Office is committed to pursuing accountability for corporate crimes, and the Winterkorn prosecution is a reflection of that commitment". Winterkorn, the highest-ranking executive charged, was cited for trying to mislead regulators about the cheating.
"The indictment further alleges that Winterkorn, after having been clearly informed of the emissions cheating, agreed with other senior VW executives to continue to perpetrate the fraud and deceive US regulators".
The remaining three counts charge Winterkorn with wire fraud in connection with the scheme.
According to the indictment, Winterkorn was briefed on both the emissions issue and how USA regulators were threatening to delay certifying 2016 cars for sale, at a July meeting in Wolfsburg, Germany, where the company is based.
An indictment, filed in secret in March, was unsealed on Thursday in US District Court, and it names numerous former executives. The results of the study showed significantly elevated NOx levels of the two VW vehicles, with one emitting up to 35 times above the allowable legal limit.
The carmaker didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Last year Winterkorn told a German parliamentary inquiry that he had no knowledge of the company's software scam, also the subject of a criminal investigation in Germany.
In May, a VW Executive sent a memo to Winterkorn explaining the situation which stated, "a thorough explanation for the dramatic increase in NOx emissions can not be given to the authorities".
The government says Volkswagen declined to come clean after memorandum was written on May 22th, 2014.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused VW of using a so-called "defeat device" on its 2.0-liter turbodiesel.
The public prosecutor of Braunschweig, in Germany, meanwhile is also still investigating the scandal.
The threat to stop US sales reportedly sent Volkswagen into panic mode and they held a "damage table meeting" on July 27th, 2015 in Wolfsburg, Germany. Gottweis's memorandum was then attached to a cover note authored by a then-senior VW executive, and addressed to Winterkorn. But, the indictment said, he continued to "perpetrate the fraud and deceive USA regulators".
Winterkorn, who resigned amid the scandal in September 2015 after eight years at the helm at the German automaker, is believed to be in Germany, federal authorities said. VW executives also approved a script, "consistent with Winterkorn's alleged directive", for a meeting with CARB to hide their emissions cheating.
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