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German prosecutors bring criminal charges against current and former Volkswagen CEOs over emissions scandal

Trio accused of deliberately failing to inform investors promptly about financial impact of scandal

Olesya Dmitracova
Economics and Business Editor
Tuesday 24 September 2019 12:38 BST
CEO Herbert Diess has been charged with stock market manipulation alongside two other people.
CEO Herbert Diess has been charged with stock market manipulation alongside two other people. (AP)

Prosecutors in Germany have brought criminal charges against three current and former Volkswagen executives over the emissions scandal, agencies have reported.

CEO Herbert Diess and Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch, as well as former CEO Martin Winterkorn, have been charged with stock market manipulation. They intentionally told investors too late about the costs the company will incur as a result of the scandal, the prosecutors said on Tuesday. That gave the executives improper influence over the company’s share price, they argued.

The legal case is one of a number of lawsuits over VW’s admission in 2015 that it had cheated tests to make its vehicles appear less polluting than they were.

A VW board member told The Independent in a statement that the company has “meticulously” investigated the facts behind the latest charges with the help of internal and external legal experts for almost four years.

“The result is clear: the allegations are groundless,” said Hiltrud Dorothea Werner.

“Volkswagen AG therefore remains confident that it has fulfilled all its reporting obligations under capital markets law. If there is a trial, we are confident that the allegations will prove to be unfounded.”

The regional court in Germany will now review the charges and decide whether to try the three men. Given the complexity of the case, the review is likely to take months, according to Bloomberg.

In a separate case in April, German prosecutors charged Mr Winterkorn with fraud in connection with the scandal. They claimed he found out about the cheating in May 2014 but failed to end it. However, in early 2017, Mr Winterkorn, who resigned in the wake of the scandal, said he did not know about the rigging in advance of VW’s official admission.

The diesel emissions scandal has already cost VW over €30bn (£26bn) in fines and other costs.

For years VW had pushed its diesel cars as better for the environment than petrol-powered equivalents because they could travel for longer on a single tank of fuel. But the company cheated tests that measured other harmful exhaust fumes such as nitrogen oxide, which can cause a range of health problems.

VW’s share price fell almost three per cent after the latest charges became public.

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