Volkswagen ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn charged in the USA over Dieselgate scandal

Volkswagen ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn charged in the USA over Dieselgate scandal

Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn was charged in federal court for allegedly conspiring with other executives to cheat on diesel emissions tests.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of MI in Detroit said Winterkorn was not in custody. The federal prosecutors say the charges stem from Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal, which was unearthed by the Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations in 2015.

The indictment alleges that Winterkorn conspired with company executives and employees to violate the Clean Air Act and defraud the U.S. and customers living there by falsely claiming that its "clean diesel" vehicles met USA emissions requirements.

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

The indictment of Winterkorn alleges that he was informed of VW's diesel emissions cheating in May 2014 and again in July 2015.

The charges, filed in March, were unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court, the same day as Volkswagen's annual meeting in Germany. However, he now lives in Germany, which has no extradition treaty with the United States, and is unlikely ever to see the inside of the USA courtroom.

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".

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Volkswagen had initially suggested that only lower-level executives knew of the diesel emissions cheating. The former CEO is also under investigation by German authorities.

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. A PowerPoint presentation was allegedly created, detailing exactly how VW was deceiving regulators "including precisely what information had been disclosed to United States regulators and what information had not yet been disclosed".

The indictment says Winterkorn was twice informed the company had cheated USA emissions tests - once in May 2014 and again in July 2015 - well before the scandal became public in 2015.

However, the whole charade fell apart at that CARB meeting as a Volkswagen employee in "direct contravention of the instructions from his superiors" revealed the company's 2.0-liter TDI engines were using defeat devices.

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

The indictment also alleges that VW employees recommended the company seek to get approval for 2016 diesel models from US regulators without revealing the existence of the cheating software.

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