Martin Winterkorn, the former Volkswagen chief executive, could face up to ten years in prison after German criminal charges were brought against him over the Dieselgate emissions scandal on Monday.
The move came as it emerged that rival carmaker Daimler was under investigation by German authorities on suspicion of continuing to fit emissions-rigging software to its cars.
Mr Winterkorn was formally charged with fraud and breaking German competition law on Monday. They are the first German criminal charges against him over the emissions rigging and the first to put him in direct legal jeopardy.
The former chief executive is already under indictment in the US but is highly unlikely to face trial there because Germany does not extradite its citizens.
Mr Winterkorn resigned as VW chief executive in 2015 over the “dieselgate” scandal, in which cars were fitted with software designed to cheat emissions tests.
Prosecutors in the German city of Braunschweig on Monday brought charges against him and four other former VW managers.
The five former executives are accused of “multiple crimes manifested in a single criminal action, especially a particularly serious case of fraud and infringement of the law against unfair competition”, prosecutors said.
Mr Winterkorn is accused of lying to authorities and offering guarantees that VW was not selling rigged cars “even after he knew about the illegal manipulations”.
Prosecutors allege that he knew about the emissions rigging as early as May 25, 2014 – more than a year before VW admitted it. They further allege that he oversaw a software update in November 2014 designed to cover up the rigging.
Mr Winterkorn has always maintained he was not personally involved in the emissions rigging and knew nothing about it. He said he resigned because he accepted responsibility as chief executive.
If convicted, he and the other four executives face between six months and ten years in prison.
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April 15, 2019 at 05:08PM