U.S. files criminal charges against former Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn

Volkswagen-300x199The United States has filed criminal charges against former Volkswagen CEO, Martin Winterkorn. He is accused of trying to cover up the fraudulent emissions tests in the VW diesel scandal.

The Charges

Winterkorn is facing conspiracy and wire fraud charges related to Volkswagen’s efforts to cheat on US diesel emissions tests. It’s rare for the CEO to be prosecuted for a company’s actions, according to Reuters.

Winterkorn resigned in 2015 as the diesel scandal was uncovered. A federal court in Michigan agrees there is enough evidence to charge him with trying to violate the Clean Air Act. Five other VW executives were also charged in the indictment. Winterkorn is the highest-ranking executive to be charged over the diesel scandal.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions says, “The indictment alleges that Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company…these are serious allegations and we’ll prosecute this case to the full extent of the law.”

Winterkorn has long maintained that he was “stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group”. He denies any knowledge of the diesel scandal. He even testified before a German parliamentary inquiry, saying he knew nothing.

The Diesel Scandal

A few years back, VW engaged in a major push to sell diesel cars in the US. They heavily leveraged their cars as “low emission vehicles”. The fact is, the cars did not have low emissions. The EPA says VW modified software on the diesel engines to make the claim.

The EPA found nearly half-a-million cars in the US including, the Audi A3, Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat were part of the diesel scandal. But VW has admitted that about 11 million cars worldwide were modified to fool emission tests.

The Fallout

Oliver Schmidt, a senior Volkswagen executive, was sentenced to seven years for his part and fined $400,000. VW also pleaded guilty as a corporation and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines.

There is also a criminal investigation into the scandal being conducted in Germany. Winterkorn is a German citizen and it is unlikely he will be extradited to the US to face trial.

To learn more about this case or report suspected fraud, contact Jeffrey Newman Law today!