[JURIST] The Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office [official website, in German] opened a criminal investigation [press release, in German] Monday of former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn [Forbes profile], following accusations that the company cheated on government emissions tests by manipulating exhaust valves. The investigation will focus on determining who was responsible for the cheating scandal, but no further information was released. The manipulations were done on diesel vehicles worldwide through the use of “defeat devices” [DW report], which were fitted onto the vehicles. According to reports the software was able to recognize when a vehicle was being tested and reduced emissions during the test, but the vehicles actually emitted up to 40 times more nitrogen oxide than allowed under US law.
This investigation follows several criminal complaints, including one filed by Volkswagen, and comes less than a week after Winterkorn stepped down [Bloomberg report] as CEO of the company. In his statement [press release] he accepted “responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines” and said that he was “clearing the way for this fresh start with [his] resignation.”