Economy

Former VW boss charged over emissions cheating

Former VW boss charged over emissions cheating

The former CEO of Volkswagen AG has been indicted on federal criminal charges in the German automaker's diesel-cheating scandal.

According to Reuters, the charges against Winterkorn were filed secretly in March and only became public on Thursday.

Winterkorn, who stepped down from his role as CEO days after the scandal was revealed, is accused of conspiring to defraud the US and violate the Clean Air Act.

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

"If you try to deceive the United States, then you will pay a heavy price", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.

Diesel cars from Volkswage (VLKAF)and Audi, which is owned by VW, were rigged to cheat on clean air rules with software that made emissions look cleaner than they actually were, according to federal and California regulators.

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A spokesperson for the US Attorney's office in Detroit said Mr Winterkorn was not in custody. The indictment claims that Winterkorn became aware of the company's diesel cheating as early as May 2014, but he agreed with other executives to "continue to perpetrate the fraud and deceive USA regulators".

Winterkorn is accused of approving continued concealment of the cheating software, even after U.S. authorities began their investigation. Documents later surfaced tying several executives to statements imploring colleagues to "come up with the story please!" when regulators started asking questions.

Volkswagen settled criminal charges with the US Justice Department in 2017 and agreed to a US$4.3 billion payment.

Volkswagen had initially suggested that only lower-level executives knew of the diesel emissions cheating.

As alleged in the indictment, following publication of the ICCT study in the spring of 2014 the company knowingly continued to deny the existence of emissions cheating in its vehicles until late summer 2015. Two former VW engineers, Oliver Schmidt and James Liang, pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy alleged in the indictment and are now serving prison sentences of 84 months and 40 months, respectively.

"As CEO I took political responsibility", the 69-year-old Winterkorn said during a German parliamentary inquiry in January 2017, adding that, "this step was the most hard of my life". On 3 September 2015, VW officially admitted that it had installed defeat devices in various 2.0-liter diesel vehicles sold in the United States.


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