Former Volkswagen CEO charged in U.S. over diesel scandal

Vastavam web: The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday disclosed the filing of criminal charges against former Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn, accusing him of conspiring to cover up the German automaker’s diesel emissions cheating.The indictment, filed in secret in March, was unsealed in U.S. District Court on Thursday as Volkswagen held its annual meeting in Germany. Winterkorn resigned days after the scandal over polluting vehicles in the United States became public in September 2015.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Environmental Protection Adminstration chief Scott Pruitt and other senior Trump administration official issued statements criticizing VW with the indictment, which marks a rare instance of a CEO being subjected to criminal prosecution for corporate behaviour.In contrast with Volkswagen, no individuals were charged at Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) in connection with its sudden unintended acceleration scandal or at General Motors Co (GM.N) for the cover-up of a deadly ignition switch defect.

The federal government’s decisions not to prosecute senior financial industry executives in connection with the 2007-2009 financial crisis also has drawn fire from advocates of tougher measures to deter corporate wrongdoing.Volkswagen settled criminal charges with the U.S. Justice Department in 2017 and agreed to a $4.3 billion payment. In total, VW has agreed to spend more than $25 billion in the United States to address claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers.

The company also has offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles. Many are now stored in parking lots around the United States.Winterkorn, 70, is charged with four felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act from at least May 2006 through November 2015 after the company admitted using illicit software that allowed Volkswagen diesel vehicles to emit excess pollution without detection.

A lawyer for Winterkorn in Germany did not immediately comment. Winterkorn in January 2017 told German lawmakers he had not been informed of the cheating early and would have halted it had he been aware, but he did not say when he first became aware of the issue.