Dieselgate: Volkswagen lawsuit opens in Germany

The trial of four former Volkswagen officials, accused of fraud in the case of rigged diesel engines, opens Thursday, a new stage in the criminal epilogue of “dieselgate” despite the absence of the former boss of the group.

All are accused of “organized gang fraud” and “aggravated tax fraud” linked to the global scandal that erupted in September 2015, when the first German manufacturer admitted to having rigged 11 million cars so that they displayed levels of emission of nitrogen oxides lower than reality.

But justice decided last week to split the proceedings, postponing indefinitely, for medical reasons, the trial of former CEO Martin Winterkorn.

The 74-year-old who piloted the auto giant from 2007 to 2015 recently underwent surgery.

The hearing which opens in Brunswick (north), not far from the historic headquarters of the manufacturer, will still be the second major criminal trial in Germany linked to the “dieselgate”. The one targeting Rupert Stadler, former boss of Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, began a year ago and is still ongoing.

The judges will be keen to clarify several questions: who, between engineers and managers, was aware of the use of fraudulent software? When did they know? Who was behind the cheating or tolerated it, in order to sell off more cars?

“The accusation of fraud concerns some 9 million vehicles that were sold in Europe and the United States” with damage to customers of “several hundred million euros”, according to the prosecution.

The Volkswagen group, for its part, has drawn a line on much of the scandal with an invoice exceeding 30 billion euros in reimbursements, damages and legal costs, the largest of which was paid in the United States.

Mr. Winterkorn will for his part pay 11.2 million euros to his former employer who claimed damages from him, as part of an amicable agreement between the group and several former managers.

His trial will be the most anticipated of the “dieselgate” but the court still considers it impossible to say when this trained engineer will be able to appear.

The former boss was also indicted in Berlin for false testimony before a parliamentary commission of inquiry into this scandal which shook the reputation of the German automotive sector, the main branch of the industry.

Under the leadership of its current CEO Herbert Diess, the group with twelve brands has now resolutely turned to the electric car to improve its image and under pressure from European regulations.


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