German prosecutors on Monday charged former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and four others with fraud, unfair competition and breach of trust in connection with the company’s massive, multi-year effort to cheat on diesel emissions testing.
Prosecutors said that Winterkorn knew about the deceptive practice since May 2014 and failed to stop it. The company has admitted installing software that designed to cover up the the elevated pollution emissions during regular driving. Eleven million cars worldwide were equipped with the illegal software.
Prosecutors stated bonuses collected due to sales based on the deception could be forfeited. The bonuses in question ranged from around 300,000 euros to 11 million euros (USD $340,000 to $12.45 million). The 71-year-old Winterkorn and the others face from six months to 10 years imprisonment if convicted on charges of aggravated fraud involving serious losses.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission had already charged the company and Winterkorn on March 15 with defrauding investors through misleading statements about vehicle quality and environmental compliance.