The US Justice Department indicted Volkswagen’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn for conspiring with fellow executives to cover up the diesel emissions fraud. The conspiracy is said to have gone all the way up to the company’s topmost ranks.
Winterkorn had earlier stated that he was not aware of the cheating and would have stopped it if he had known about it. However, prosecutors claim that Winterkorn had known about the issue but agreed with colleagues to continue with the fraud and deception of US regulators.
Volkswagen had admitted to using software that enabled to cheat emission tests in millions of its diesel vehicles. The pollution controls in the vehicles would work in testing labs and then get turned off while on the road causing the vehicles to emit high levels of toxic gases.
Winterkorn, who resigned shortly after news of the scandal broke out in 2015, is currently in Germany, which has a no-extradition policy to non-EU countries. Even though his chances of facing trial in the US are slim, he can still be prosecuted in Germany. German officials are investigating the former chief and are cooperating with US officials on the matter.
Along with Winterkorn, around 39 people are being investigated in the emissions scandal. Winterkorn could get up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and up to 20 years on wire fraud charges along with hefty fines. Last year, Volkswagen was fined $2.8 billion for defrauding US regulators.
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