Ex-Volkswagen CEO charged for role in diesel emission scandal

US prosecutors charge former VW chief Winterkorn

Volkswagen did not immediately comment.

American prosecutors have charged Volkswagen's former chief executive with conspiring to mislead customers and regulators about the carmaker's diesel emissions cheating.

The superseding indictment was issued by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of MI and charges Winterkorn with four counts of violating federal law. About 11 million Volkswagen vehicles, including half a million in America, were secretly and deliberately equipped with "defeat devices" that allowed them to cheat diesel emissions tests.

Winterkorn stepped down from his role at Volkswagen in September of 2015, only a matter of days after the German auto maker confessed to outfitting 11 million cars with a device created to cheat at emissions testing. He is the ninth person charged by the USA government in this scandal.

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Winterkorn is the highest-ranking VW official to be charged in the USA for his role in the cover-up.

When the scandal broke in 2015, then-CEO Winterkorn denied having knowledge of the efforts by VW engineers to use a device and software to pass emissions inspections.

In total, nine people have been charged and two have pleaded guilty in the case.

An indictment, filed in secret in March, was unsealed on Thursday in US District Court, and it names numerous former executives. 2015, is the ninth individual against whom USA criminal authorities have announced charges in connection with this matter. One former manager of VW's subsidiary Audi AG, Giovanni Pamio, 61, an Italian citizen, has been charged by complaint and now remains in Germany pending extradition. At the time, US regulators threatened to withhold authorization for Volkswagen to sell 2016 model year vehicles in the United States until the company explained the discrepancies raised by the ICCT study. Winterkorn has said he did not learn of the cheating until late August 2015. A PowerPoint presentation was allegedly created, detailing exactly how VW was deceiving regulators "including precisely what information had been disclosed to U.S. regulators and what information had not yet been disclosed".

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"As CEO I took political responsibility", the 69-year-old Winterkorn said during a German parliamentary inquiry in January 2017, adding that, "this step was the most hard of my life".

In May, a VW Executive sent a memo to Winterkorn explaining the situation which stated, "a thorough explanation for the dramatic increase in NOx emissions can not be given to the authorities".

After this meeting, Winterkorn allegedly approved a course of action to send Oliver Schmidt to meet with a senior CARB official to get the approval to sell 2016 model year vehicles in the United States without revealing the defeat device.

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