German Prosecutors Announce Investigation of Former VW CEO in Diesel Emissions Scandal

By Jesse Sokolow on 28 September 2015
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DSC_0193What Did Winterkorn Know, and When Did He Know It?

Prosecutors in Germany said on Monday that they had started a criminal investigation of Volkswagen’s former CEO, Martin Winterkorn as well as other company executives on suspicion of fraud.

The move follows complaints from unidentified individuals in Germany stating that he should be held responsible for what some are referring to as Dieselgate, in which the Wolfsburg-based automaker cheated in emissions testing in the United States and other countries.

The Staatsanwaltschaft or state attorney in Braunschweig, a neighboring city to Wolfsburg in Lower Saxony, began the investigation on the basis of complaints by people it did not identify.

“The goal of the investigation is in particular the clarification of responsibilities,” the state prosecutor said in a statement.

Winterkorn resigned as CEO on Wednesday, days after the company said it had programmed almost 500,000 diesel-powered vehicles sold in the United States to emit fewer emissions during official tests than while the car was being driven on the road. Volkswagen later said that the illicit technology might have been put into as many as 11 million vehicles worldwide.

The device was programmed to turn on the full emissions control system in a car only when it was undergoing testing. At other times, the controls were turned off, which meant that the vehicles polluted far more than reported by the manufacturer.

Winterkorn apologized twice for the company’s actions, saying he was stunned by what had taken place.

“As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the supervisory board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group,” he said. “I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part.”

(Photos: Accura Media Group)