Former Volkswagen CEO charged with Dieselgate fraud

Martin Winterkorn former VW chief executive

Martin Winterkorn the former VW chief executive faces criminal charges in Germany for the first time Credit TOBIAS SCHWARZ AFP

German prosecutors have brought charges against former Volkswagen (VW) Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn over his role in the diesel emissions-cheating scandal.

The German case comes almost a year after the United States filed charges against Winterkorn, accusing him of conspiring to cover up the German carmaker's emissions cheating.

Mr Winterkorn is already facing criminal charges in the U.S., but is unlikely to face trial, as Germany does not extradite its citizens.

Winterkorn's attorney, Felix Doerr, said that the defence could not comment on the German case because prosecutors had not provided adequate opportunity to review the case files. It did not give the names of the other four or say whether they were still employed by Volkswagen.

Martin Winterkorn resigned as chief executive in September 2015 after USA authorities accused VW of deliberately manipulating its cars' performance under emissions test conditions - meaning its vehicle emissions seemed much less polluting than in normal driving. "I do not expect to be charged", Diess said, speaking on the sidelines of the Shanghai auto show.

Prosecutors say the cheating went on for almost a decade and Winterkorn could have put a stop to it earlier than he did.

The prosecutors' move is one of a number of legal proceedings unleased by the scandal.

Beyond that, Volkswagen has paid more than 27 billion euros (currently $31 billion) in fines and civil settlements with authorities and vehicle owners in the months and years since being caught. The 71-year-old German was also charged with fraud by American prosecutors last year.

Volkswagen said it would not comment because the company was not a party to the proceedings against individuals and that the Braunschweig criminal case against the company itself had been closed.

In a related case, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Winterkorn last month, saying U.S. investors were informed too late about the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, alleging "massive fraud".

Winterkorn and the others face from six months to 10 years imprisonment if convicted on charges of aggravated fraud involving serious losses.

The fallout from the scandal has hit demand for diesel vehicles across other carmakers in Europe, amid evidence that almost all diesel vehicles exceeded emissions standards in real-world conditions.

Alongside Winterkorn, four more managers were being charged on counts including major fraud and unfair competition, the statement said.

Prosecutors said the defendants - all top Volkswagen managers - were part of a deception that started in 2006.

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