By on January 27, 2017

Martin Winterkorn, Image: Volkswagen AG [CC BY 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

German prosecutors say their investigation into Volkswagen’s dirty dealings now includes the company’s former CEO, Martin Winterkorn.

The long-running probe into the diesel emissions scandal recently expanded from 21 suspects to 37, Reuters reports, placing Winterkorn solidly under the microscope. Winterkorn stepped down just days after the scandal went public in September 2015.

The former top boss recently emerged from the shadows to tell a German committee he knew nothing of the decade-long conspiracy under his watch, though prosecutors suspect he may have known more than that.

After moving off the media front burner for months, the diesel scandal hit a rolling boil again when a Volkswagen executive was nabbed by FBI agents at Miami Airport earlier this month. Soon after, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted six current or former execs for their role in the conspiracy. Top company brass have reportedly been warned to avoid travel outside the country.

While the criminal charges remain on the western side of the Atlantic, that doesn’t mean it’s sunshine and rainbows for VW managers and executives at home. A total of 28 homes and offices were searched in the past week, prosecutors said today.

Before this latest news, Winterkorn was already on the hot seat. Prosecutors in the German district of Braunschweig — home of VW headquarters — are investigating the former CEO for market manipulation. A number of investor lawsuits allege he knew about the damaging information before it erased billions in wealth from the company’s stock. Now, Winterkorn finds himself suspected of fraud.

The company’s official response to the investigations claims its executive board only learned of the emissions cheating in late August 2015 — less than a month before the Environmental Protection Agency laid charges, making the scandal public.

[Image: Volkswagen AG/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)]

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8 Comments on “Volkswagen Criminal Probe Expands to ex-CEO Winterkorn...”

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    “I know nothing”.

    He’s channeling Sgt. Hans Schultz from “Hogan’s Heroes”.

  • avatar

    While reading the article on crash testing the Mustang in Europe the other day, I connected two issues here in a way I haven’t seen mentioned.

    By what I read, the offset crash test is supposed to see how much damage would be sustained in a collision with a pole, tree, etc. However the test is actually crashing the front left side. So many cars have been designed with reinforcement in this area, not the whole front of the car. In other words, designed to pass the test. This lack of safety could kill people.

    VW designs their engine management to reduce emissions in testing conditions. Otherwise it runs normally. Minimal impact in the grand scheme of things and the world goes apes**t.

    The bigger issue is that VW lied about it. However what would a manufacturer say when questioned about their front impact safety in reality versus intent?

    • 0 avatar

      Um, not at all.

      A similar picture would be if they only installed the crash protection on the test cars and omitted it for all other cars they sold.

      Then lied about it.

      Then tried to cover up the lie.

  • avatar

    Nailed it.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I can’t say what Mr Winterkorn knew before the scandal broke, but isn’t it meaningful that *German* prosecutors are the ones checking into him?

    For the B&B:
    a) Is this just due diligence, and nothing will come of it?
    b) If they find something, do you think they’ll really go after him?

    I don’t want to cynically believe that they would turn a blind eye if a high-rolling German national has committed a crime.

  • avatar

    I think he knew long before 2015. Why? It’s a CEO’s business to know, to assess risks etc. If he did not know, then he can be called a bad CEO. In either case, shareholders can start a campaign to reclaim the bonuses Winterkorn has been collecting.

  • avatar

    Why are they picking on poor Winterkorn? He wasn’t *really* in charge – Ferdinand Piech was. Wasn’t he the guy who (probably) said to the engineers, “Give me diesel performance with low emissions, or I’ll find engineers who can.”? There’s a French term for what that produces: ‘ne riff ne raff’ – by hook or by crook.

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