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US charges ex-Volkswagen CEO in diesel emissions scandal

ABR Staff Writer Published 07 May 2018

Martin Winterkorn, the former chairman of the management board of Volkswagen (VW), has been charged with conspiracy and wire fraud in diesel emissions scandal.

An indictment was unsealed charging Winterkorn with conspiracy and wire fraud in connection with VW’s scheme to cheat US diesel vehicle emissions requirements.

The indictment was issued by a federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Michigan and has charged Winterkorn with four counts of violating federal law. 

The first count charges that Winterkorn conspired with other senior VW executives and employees to defraud the US, the company’s customers in the US and violate the Clean Air Act by falsely representing to regulators and public about its clean diesel vehicles to comply with US emission requirements.

The remaining three counts include wire fraud in connection with the scheme.

The charge alleges that Winterkorn was informed of the company's diesel emissions cheating in May 2014 and again in July 2015.

It further alleges that Winterkorn, after having been clearly informed about the emissions cheating, agreed with with other senior VW executives to continue to perpetrate the fraud and deceive the US regulators.

The news of the software being installed came out in the spring of 2014, after a test conducted by the International Council on Clean Transportation (the ICCT study) tested road emissions of two VW diesel vehicles sold in the United States. 

Volkswagen had denied about such software being installed in its vehicles, until 2015. The US regulators threatened the company to withhold permissions to sell its 2016 diesel models in the country, until it answered the discrepancies about the high NOx content in its vehicles’ emissions.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Pruitt said: “The indictment of former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn should send a clear message that EPA and its law enforcement partners will seek to hold corporate officers accountable for alleged criminal activities at their company.”

Last year, the German automaker was found guilty in the US for its role in deceiving the US about its diesel emissions. The company ‘defeat devices’ whose software could detect if the vehicle has been put through emissions testing and will drastically decrease emissions so that the vehicle will give out normal readings.

As part of its plea agreement with the Department of Justice, the company had paid criminal penalty of $2.8bn.