A recently released indictment formally charged former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn with conspiracy and wire fraud.
Volkswagen’s “Dieselgate” scandal has raged on for nearly three years, and now another former executive faces criminal charges. A U.S. federal court in Michigan has formally charged ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn with conspiracy and wire fraud, according to a recently unsealed court document.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has so far charged nine Volkswagen executives, including Winterkorn, in connection to the scandal. He was CEO of Volkswagen group between January 2007 and September 2015, when he stepped down. While he was the CEO, all Volkswagen Group employees reported to him. As a result, that makes this indictment the most significant of all.
Back in 2015, Volkswagen admitted that it equipped its 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter diesel models with defeat devices. In essence, the car would recognize when it was having an emissions test, and reduced its emissions to meet acceptable levels. However, that was only during the test itself. Under normal conditions, the cars would emit nitrogen oxides at levels up to 40 times the acceptable limit. The scandal affected 11 million cars built between model years 2009 and 2016.
In January 2017, the company plead guilty to criminal charges related to the scandal, and has paid a whopping $25 billion in fines to date. Prosecutors are going after Winterkorn specifically for his alleged intent to “willfully defraud the United States by impairing, impeding, obstructing, or defeating a lawful function of the federal government” by circumventing emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.
What happens now?
Martin Winterkorn resigned from Volkswagen amid the Dieselgate scandal blowing up. We don’t know at this point what fate awaits him. However, U.S. courts have jailed other former Volkswagen employees for their involvement with the defeat devices. Federal judge Sean Cox sentenced Oliver Schmidt, a former Volkswagen engineer, to seven years in prison. In addition, the court fined him to the tune of $400,000. He plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government and violating the Clean Air Act.
James Liang, a former VW engineer, was also sentenced to 40 months in prison. Volkswagen has undergone another management shakeup, which included replacing Matthias Müller in April, and replacing the CEO of Electrify America, a company launched in 2016 as part of the company’s settlement with the California Air Resources Board and the EPA.
Stay tuned to TFLcar.com for more updates.