Former Volkswagen boss Winterkorn charged over dieselgate role

Irving Hamilton
May 4, 2018

Winterkorn is charged with one count of conspiracy with other VW executives to defraud the Unites States, along with the manufacturer's customers.

Federal prosecutors charged Winterkorn with wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the USA and violating the Clean Air Act.

It includes three counts of wire fraud related to that scheme.

Prosecutors say Winterkorn knew of the company's emissions cheating as early as May 2014 but made a decision to continue with the fraud, the Justice Department said in a statement.

The indictment, filed in March under seal, was unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court. Documents later surfaced tying several executives to statements imploring colleagues to "come up with the story please!" when regulators started asking questions.

In July 2015, when the U.S. threatened not to re-certify Volkswagen diesels because their emissions numbers were so off, Winterkorn asked his employees for a briefing on the situation. At the time, US regulators threatened to withhold authorization for Volkswagen to sell 2016 model year vehicles in the United States until the company explained the discrepancies raised by the ICCT study.

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He was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act from at least May 2006 through November 2015 by using illicit software that allowed Volkswagen diesel vehicles to emit excess pollution without detection.

He becomes the highest-ranking executive to be charged over "dieselgate" - a scheme where VW used software to trick government emissions testers.

Prosecutors say that following the meeting, Winterkorn authorised the company to continue lying to American authorities.

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.

"Volkswagen deceived American regulators and defrauded American consumers for years", Matthew J. Schneider, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of MI, said in a statement.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Environmental Protection Adminstration chief Scott Pruitt and other senior Trump administration official issued statements criticising VW with the indictment, which marks a rare instance of a CEO being subjected to criminal prosecution for corporate behavior.

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