In the diesel scandal, the Braunschweig public prosecutor brought charges against the former VW boss Winterkorn – among other things for serious fraud. In addition to Winterkorn, four other people were charged.
In the US, the Stock exchange regulator Volkswagen and the former CEO Martin Winterkorn already accused of fraud against investors, now the legal processing of the diesel scandal is entering a new round in Germany. In the scandal surrounding illegal defeat devices, the Braunschweig public prosecutor brought charges against the ex-CEO. The responsible chief public prosecutor Klaus Ziehe spoke of an important intermediate step. The responsible regional court in Braunschweig must now decide whether to admit the indictment.
Particularly serious case of fraud
The lawsuit is directed against five executives who have committed "a plurality of criminal offenses in a single criminal act". It is about a particularly serious case of fraud and a violation of the law against unfair competition. The time of the offense extends from November 15, 2006 to September 22, 2015. The accused had deliberately concealed the existence of an illegal defeat device that reduced the emission values of diesel cars on the test bench, according to the public prosecutor.
Winterkorn is also accused of breach of trust because after he did not immediately disclose it after becoming aware of illegal manipulation of diesel engines. In addition, with the knowledge and approval of Winterkorn, the group issued a software update in November 2014 in order to conceal the real reason for the increased nitrogen oxide levels in the vehicles, the public prosecutor said.
It’s also about the "weekend post" in May 2014
According to NDR information, the investigators at Winterkorn concentrate in their indictment on the so-called "weekend mail". In this post, a confidante Winterkorn reported in May 2014 that increased emissions were measured in the USA, for which there is no adequate explanation. The US authorities would probably ask about a "defeat device", an illegal defeat device. The public prosecutor’s office is now apparently convinced that Winterkorn knew at the time that the vehicles had been tampered with. Winterkorn himself vigorously denies this to this day. The manager resigned after the millionfold diesel manipulation became known in September 2015.
Volkswagen does not comment
Most recently, the public prosecutor’s office in Braunschweig investigated 42 suspects for manipulating nitrogen oxide emissions. The charges against the five accused are a partial conclusion of the investigation, said the authority. So more charges can follow. Volkswagen declined to comment on the grounds that the group was not part of the proceedings.
Winterkorn’s lawyer Felix Dorr announced that the public prosecutor’s office had brought charges without giving his client the opportunity "to take note of all files and to comment on the content of the files and the allegations made". A further statement is only possible when the indictment is complete.
Further investigative proceedings by the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office, in some cases with identical accused, deal with the suspicion of the fining of carbon dioxide values, the deletion of data and market manipulation. The basis of the last allegation is the suspicion that Volkswagen informed its shareholders about the diesel scandal too late. These investigations are directed against Winterkorn, the current CEO Herbert Diess, who was previously VW brand boss, and the former CFO and current supervisory board chairman Hans Dieter Potsch.
Key witness in the USA, indicted in Germany
The Brunswick indictment list does not coincide with that of the American judiciary. The Americans also have winter grain on their list. According to NDR information, the German investigators are now also suing two managers who have given extensive testimony and who are not being prosecuted in the USA. One of them is even listed as a key witness in the USA, the other was the first to testify extensively in the VW internal investigation and immediately afterwards to the public prosecutor.
The scandal is a massive financial burden for the VW group. The whole thing has already cost almost 30 billion euros – mainly for fines and compensation in the USA. Investors who feel informed about the affair too late are also suing in the model proceedings in Braunschweig for billions in damages. Thousands of Diesel customers also want to see money.