The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Thursday unsealed an indictment [charges, PDF] against former Volkswagen (VW) [corporate website] CEO and chairman of the management board Martin Winterkorn on charges of fraud and conspiracy arising from the company’s diesel emission-cheating scandal.
The charges, which were filed on March 14 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] by a federal grand jury, include four counts of federal law violations, including conspiracy to defraud VW’s US consumers, wire fraud and violations of the Clean Air Act [materials]. In a statement [press release], Attorney General Jeff Sessions [official profile] indicated that these charges are being taken very seriously: “[t]he indictment unsealed today alleges that Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company. These are serious allegations, and we will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”
The indictment claims that Winterkorn and other senior VW executives were made aware of emissions cheating in May 2014 and July 2015, and agreed to continue the practice. These charges follow the December guilty plea [JURIST report] of Oliver Schmidt, a former VW general manager, that resulted in a $400,000 fine and seven-year prison sentence for his involvement in the scandal.
The VW scandal broke in September 2015 when it was leaked that VW had intentionally circumvented emissions tests through installing technology to determine when emissions testing would take place and alter the cars emissions during inspections. It was found that the practice took place for at least six years. The scandal has resulted in multi-billion dollar settlements across the US and around the world [JURIST reports].