By on May 7, 2018

Shortly after the United States formally accused former CEO of Volkswagen Martin Winterkorn of criminal wrongdoing related to the company’s diesel emission scandal, it decided to let the company’s new boss know that he’s safe to visit whenever he likes. The U.S. Justice Department has agreed to give Herbert Diess a safe-passage deal that allows him to travel without fear of being arrested.

Diess was also given the country’s assurance that he’ll be given advance notice if prosecutors eventually decide to charge him over the emissions cheating issue. So far as we know, no such deal exists for his predecessor, Matthias Müller, who replaced Winterkorn in September of 2015. 

While the arrangement is supposed to be confidential, Bloomberg reported that two people familiar with the matter have confirmed its existence. “This is certainly a unique situation, and there are likely facts that the general public is not aware of that would allow for such an arrangement,” said formal federal prosecutor Michael Koenig.

Since Diess joined VW shortly before the scandal became public knowledge, there is little reason to assume he was involved in the subterfuge. However, he was in attendance for a July 27, 2015 meeting where U.S. emissions irregularities were explained to senior managers. That gathering is believed to have been the moment when Winterkorn “approved the continued concealment of the cheating software from U.S. regulators.”

Being privy to that meeting may mean Diess has important information. The safe-passage deal may even have hinged upon him sharing some of that information. Witnesses and subjects of investigations are sometimes guaranteed safe travel so they can testify. Still, sources have already said Diess didn’t help with the case against Winterkorn. So authorities are presumably holding out hopes that he’ll want to talk later and/or have already cleared him of any criminal involvement worthy of arrest.

How involved Diess was in the emissions scandal is unclear, though. It’s unlikely he played any role in the decision to implement defeat devices in VW Group cars, but he may have withheld information about a corporate cover-up. In Germany, he’s under investigation for market manipulation, but so are a gaggle of other high-ranking Volkswagen employees. The most we can assume is that he’s a person of interest right now.

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

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8 Comments on “U.S. Gives Volkswagen’s New Boss ‘Safe Passage’ Guarantee...”

  • avatar

    If only the Department of “Justice” put as much effort into catching serial killers, terrorists and ISIS sympathisers as they do foreign auto executives who were complicit in fudging the emissions metrics (of which the bar was set too high), if only…

    Kind of reminds me of Homeland Security and how it occupies their time with such nonsense like chasing down imported Range Rovers or Land Cruisers or whatever to seize and crush or the raiding of corporate offices and warehouses of Gibson Guitars and Lumber Liquidators because they used a “rare” speicies of wood imported from Brazil (with permission from the Brazilian government, no less). Meanwhile, the real bad dudes–you know, actual, real threats to the security of our homeland–still run rampant.

  • avatar

    “Diess, who joined the automaker a couple months before the scandal became public in September 2015, isn’t accused of wrongdoing.” Bloomberg.

    Handily missing from this TTAC writeup. Man was in labor/human relations. Not a techie.

  • avatar

    He always invited to come and live in California. Federal law does not apply to California and besides California is an open border sanctuary state.

  • avatar

    >U.S. Gives Volkswagen’s New Boss ‘Safe Passage’ Guarantee

    Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.

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