Former VW CEO Indicted in Emissions Cheating Case

US prosecutors charge former VW chief Winterkorn

The former CEO of Volkswagen AG has been indicted on federal criminal charges in the German automaker's diesel-cheating scandal.

The charges, which were filed in March were revealed on Thursday and adds Winterkorn to the list of nine accused former Volkswagen executives.

Winterkorn resigned soon after the scandal over polluting vehicles in the United States became public in September 2015.

A spokeswoman for the United States attorney's office in Detroit said Winterkorn is not in custody.

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In a statement, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that "these are serious allegations" and that "the full force of the law" applies to this case. Two former engineers have pleaded guilty.

In total, VW has agreed to spend more than US$25 billion in the USA to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers. All of this stems from a diesel emissions scandal that ultimately found VW paying $4.3 billion in penalties.

Diesel cars from Volkswage (VLKAF)and Audi, which is owned by VW, were rigged to cheat on clean air rules with software that made emissions look cleaner than they actually were, according to federal and California regulators. He went on to say "The indictment unsealed today alleges that Volkswagen's scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company".

The remaining three counts charge Winterkorn committed wire fraud in connection with the scheme.

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Winterkorn, who served as VW's management board chairman and thus VW's highest ranking executive from January 2007 until September 2015, is the ninth individual against whom United States criminal authorities have announced charges in connection with this matter. Volkswagen continued to deny the existence of defeat devices until the summer of 2015. One former manager of VW's subsidiary Audi AG, Giovanni Pamio, 61, an Italian citizen, has been charged by complaint and now remains in Germany pending extradition. The prosecution alleges that Winterkorn may have known of the cheats as early as 2014.

The September 2015 disclosure that VW had for at least six years intentionally cheated on emissions tests did massive damage to the company's reputation around the world and prompted massive compensation and vehicle refit costs.

When the USA began looking into the discrepancies found between the declared and discovered emissions levels, Winterkorn made a decision to hide the "defeat device in responding to questions from United States regulators, while appearing to cooperate, " Ars Technica reports.

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