First auto boss to appear in the dock
German prosecutors said Thursday they have filed fraud charges against three former board members at Audi and a retired senior employee, the latest legal woes for the automobile company over the "dieselgate" scam.
Audi's parent company Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating emissions tests on 11 million vehicles worldwide. Software built into motors made the cars appear to spew fewer harmful pollutants in the lab than on the road.
The scandal plunged VW into an unprecedented crisis and a tangle of legal problems.
"The four defendants are accused of fraud, indirect false certification and criminal advertising," Munich prosecutors said Thursday, without naming any of the individuals.
Separately, former Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler faces similar charges and is already due to appear in court from September 30.
The former senior employee charged Thursday is accused of having initiated the development of engines for Audi, VW and Porsche vehicles equipped with so-called "defeat devices" that enabled the cheating, according to prosecutors.
The former board members are accused of having known about the manipulations and initiated or failed to prevent further sales of affected Audi and VW vehicles at various times between October 2013 and September 2015.
Prosecutors say one of them lied to Audi about their involvement in the manipulations ahead of their promotion to the board in 2016.
The charges relate to a total of 434,420 Audi, VW and Porsche cars sold mainly in the United States and Europe.
Audi confirmed the charges in a statement, saying it would continue to "cooperate fully with the investigating authorities in order to reconstruct the circumstances that led to the diesel crisis".
The scandal has cost VW, the world's biggest automaker with a dozen brands, more than 30 billion euros (US$34 billion), for the most part in the United States.
VW has paid some US$9.5 billion in compensation since 2016 to US motorists misled by the cheating.
Former Audi chief executive Stadler will be the first auto boss to appear in the dock over the scandal.
Stadler, 57, had been chief executive at Audi for 11 years when he was arrested in June 2018.
He spent four months in pretrial detention over concerns he could try to influence witnesses.
Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who was in charge of the car group when the cheating was uncovered, has also been charged and is awaiting trial.
Former Audi and VW director Axel Eiser was arrested in Croatia in June on the basis of an international arrest warrant issued by the US.
A major court case continues by investors demanding compensation for the plunge in value of their VW shares after "dieselgate" came to light.
But the VW group has drawn a line under most other cases in its home country.
Present chief executive Herbert Diess and supervisory board boss Hans Dieter Poetsch are off the hook on charges of market manipulation, after VW paid a total of nine million euros to settle the charges.
In February, VW struck a compensation deal with German consumer groups representing owners of cars caught up in the dieselgate scandal.
The 830 million euro deal fended off a class action lawsuit brought by 400 000 diesel car drivers.
Meanwhile, other carmakers have also been caught up in the scandal.
Sites across Europe were raided in July over suspicions that Fiat Chrysler and Iveco could also have fitted cars with illegal defeat devices.
Nampa - AFP