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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    The Symbolic Indictment of Volkswagen's Former CEO

      Why the recent indictment of Martin Winterkorn doesn't amount to much.

    Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has been indicted for his involvement in the diesel emission scandal. The indictment, which was filed under seal at the U.S. District Court in Detroit back in March, was unsealed yesterday. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in court filings the reason for unsealing is "because there is no longer a belief that unsealing these documents will compromise an ongoing investigation."

    Winterkorn has been charged with four felony counts, including wire fraud and violating the clean air act. In the indictment, it is alleged that Winterkorn was told about the efforts to manipulate U.S. emission tests with their TDI vehicles in May 2014 and July 2015. Winterkorn has previously stated that he only found out about the cheating in August 2015.

    The indictment also mentions a meeting that took place on July 27, 2015 at Volkswagen's Wolfsburg headquarters. It is reported that a Powerpoint presentation was shown to various executives, including Winterkorn, that laid out the process of deception that Volkswagen was doing to regulators. Allegedly at the meeting, Volkswagen employees recommended that the company work on getting the approval of 2016 model year diesel vehicles without revealing the existence of the cheat software. Various executives including Winterkorn agreed to the plan.

    "If you try to deceive the United States, then you will pay a heavy price," said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement.

    So, when should expect Winterkorn to appear in a U.S. courtroom? The answer is never and Automotive News explains why,

    Quote

    The U.S. indictment of Winterkorn is likely to be largely symbolic. He is unlikely to face trial in the U.S. because Germany doesn’t extradite its citizens to countries outside the European Union so Winterkorn won’t be arrested unless he leaves the country.

    Emphasis mine. A source told Reuters that Winterkorn is in Germany and will be staying there. He is likely aware of what happened Oliver Schmidt, who pleaded guilty for his participation in the scandal. Schmidt was arrested in late 2016 when he was traveling in the U.S.

    German prosecutors will continue their investigation into Winterkorn's involvement in the diesel emission scandal.

    "Our investigation strategy does not change just because the Americans have filed charges against Winterkorn," said a spokesman for the Lower Saxony prosecutors' office.

    Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required), 2, Reuters

    Edited by William Maley

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    It seems odd that they'd be going after Winterkorn on this. I get that they have these powerpoint presentations that they claim he was shown, but he was late to the party.

    I would think the guy that was at the helm when it was first conceived would be the guy they'd go after.  I wonder where the inditement of Ferdinand Piech is.

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    1 minute ago, Miradart said:

    It seems odd that they'd be going after Winterkorn on this. I get that they have these powerpoint presentations that they claim he was shown, but he was late to the party.

    I would think the guy that was at the helm when it was first conceived would be the guy they'd go after.  I wonder where the inditement of Ferdinand Piech is.

    I agree.  This had to be in process while Piech was in power. 

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