Former Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn has been charged in Germany over his alleged involvement in the automaker’s diesel scandal, prosecutors confirmed to Bloomberg on Monday. The charges were for fraud and breach of trust.
Winterkorn, who was among the first to step down when details of the emissions cheating first became public in September 2015, was charged alongside four other former managers, though none of the others were named.
The 71-year-old was charged with conspiracy by the U.S. Department of Justice in May 2018 but since he resides in Germany, which doesn’t normally extradite its citizens, he’s been able to avoid questioning by officials.
That could change with the latest charges. German prosecutors allege that Winterkorn knew about the emissions cheating software since at least May 2014. They allege that he was aware of a software update implemented that year in an attempt to cover up the real reason the automaker’s diesel engines were producing excess emissions. Should the allegations prove true, Winterkorn and the other managers could face between 6 months and 10 years in prison.
Winterkorn has denied any wrongdoing since the scandal emerged and stated in testimony that he only learned of the emissions cheating software at the heart of the scandal shortly before it became public in the fall of 2015.
The fallout from diesel scandal has so far cost the VW Group and its brands $31 billion in buybacks, fixes, and fines in Europe and North America. And only two managers have received prison terms, in both cases in the U.S.. They include Oliver Schmidt who in 2017 received a seven-year prison sentence, and James Liang who that same year received a four-year sentence.