By on July 30, 2018

Large money transfers initiated by former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn early last year have German investigators wondering if the executive may have believed a criminal charge was incoming.

Already indicted in the U.S. on fraud charges stemming from the company’s diesel emissions scandal, Winterkorn (seen above with Yoko Ono) remains under a cloud of suspicion in his homeland. Though he’s claimed no early knowledge of the diesel engine manipulation, the former top boss remains under scrutiny from methodical German prosecutors who recently arrested Audi CEO Rupert Stadler.

Recently, the probe’s focus turned to large sums of money leaving the country in the lead-up to the U.S. indictment.

According to Reuters, which cites a report in German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Winterkorn moved $8.2 million from his Nuremburg account to an auditor’s office in Munich on January 31st, 2017. Some $4 million of that cash later turned up in an account at Switzerland’s Bank Vontobel.

“The circumstances around possible transfers of wealth may play a role examining the question whether the accused Winterkorn knew about diesel manipulations and potentially reacted in some way,” said the prosecutor’s office in the German city of Brunswick, home to VW headquarters.

Though Winterkorn resigned shortly after the scandal broke in September, 2015, he remained under growing suspicion. The automaker struck a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice on January 11th of that year, agreeing to pay $4.2 billion in penalties — part of a much larger settlement bill.

Investigators aren’t thinking tax fraud here. Instead, the timing of the large transfers has many wondering whether Winterkorn was attempting to move his wealth out of the country and into a safe haven in the event of prosecution. If so, what does that mean? It’s interesting that the DOJ’s indictment came just six weeks after the transfer.

So far, Winterkorn has not been charged with anything in Germany. His Audi counterpart, Stadler, remains in prison despite having appealed for his release.

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

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