The indictment of the former chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, who resigned promptly after the emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, significantly raises the stakes for Volkswagen.
The charge contradicts Volkswagen’s unwavering insistence that no management members were involved. It also weakens the company’s defence in related proceedings by shareholders — potentially adding billions of dollars to the scandal’s already monumental cost.
The New York Times reports that the US President, Donald Trump has been attempting to water down auto emissions standards, however, the indictment indicates that the Justice Department continues to pursue an investigation of the German carmaker that began during the Obama administration.
The accusations against Winterkorn also raises further questions about the thoroughness of Volkswagen’s internal investigation of the wrongdoing.
“Volkswagen continues to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “It would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases.”
”The indictment of Winterkorn alleges that he was informed of VW’s diesel emissions cheating in May 2014 and again in July 2015,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “The indictment further alleges that Winterkorn, after having been clearly informed of the emissions cheating, agreed with other senior VW executives to continue to perpetrate the fraud and deceive U.S. regulators.