Former Volkswagen CEO Charged in 'Dieselgate'

Martin Winterkorn indicted, though chances are slim he'll return to US
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 3, 2018 6:08 PM CDT
In this Jan. 19, 2017 file photo Martin Winterkorn, former CEO of the German car manufacturer Volkswagen, arrives for a questioning at an investigation committee of the German federal parliament in Berlin,...   (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

(Newser) – A federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn on charges stemming from the company's diesel emissions cheating scandal in a plot that prosecutors allege reached the top of the world's largest automaker. The four-count indictment unsealed Thursday charges Winterkorn, 70, with three counts of wire fraud and one of conspiring with other senior VW executives and employees to violate the Clean Air Act, the AP reports. He was indicted in March. Volkswagen has admitted to programming its diesel engines to activate pollution controls when being tested in government labs and turning them off when on the road. Winterkorn faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge and up to 20 years in prison and a $25,000 fine on the wire fraud charges.

Winterkorn , who resigned from VW in 2015 amid the scandal, is the ninth person charged by US authorities in the case. Two have pleaded guilty and are serving jail time, while six others remain in Germany. "Volkswagen deceived American regulators and defrauded American consumers for years," Matthew Schneider, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in a statement. "The fact that this criminal conduct was allegedly blessed at Volkswagen's highest levels is appalling." The US government believes Winterkorn is in Germany, so it's unlikely he'll ever see a US courtroom or jail. Germany's constitution forbids extradition of its citizens other than to another European Union member state or to an international court. He still could be charged in Germany, however. Prosecutors in the city of Braunschweig said in January of 2017 that Winterkorn was among 37 suspects being investigated in a criminal probe related to the emissions scandal.

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