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Former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn is
accused of serious fraud in Dieselgate scandal

BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) -- Former Volkswagen chief executive officer (CEO) Martin Winterkorn and four other VW executives have been accused of serious fraud, among other things, in the proceedings of the Volkswagen diesel scandal, the public prosecutor’s office in the German city of Brunswick announced on Monday.

The Brunswick prosecuting authority accused the five executives of having committed "a majority of criminal offences in a single criminal act."

Winterkorn "is accused of a particularly serious case of fraud, a violation of the law against unfair competition as well as breach of trust".

Even though he knew about the manipulations on diesel engines, Winterkorn had failed to disclose the manipulations either to authorities in Europe and the U.S. or to its customers, according to the public prosecutor.

The prosecuting authority accused Winterkorn of a breach of trust because he did not immediately disclose the illegal manipulations of diesel engines after becoming aware of them.

The former CEO "had failed to stop the further installation of the cheating devices" or to prohibit the sale of the vehicles with these devices, the public prosecutor stated.

In addition, with Winterkorn’s knowledge and approval, a "useless" Volkswagen software update had been carried out in November 2014 at a cost of 23 million euros (26 million U.S. dollars) that "was intended to further conceal the true reason for the increased pollutant levels in normal vehicle operation," said the prosecuting authority.

Following the court’s decision, Winterkorn’s lawyer responded that the charges had been brought without giving the former Volkswagen boss the opportunity to "take note of all files of the proceedings" and to comment on them.

The authority in Brunswick is investigating 36 Volkswagen employees in the proceedings on software manipulations of nitrogen dioxide emissions of diesel cars.

The "diesel emissions scandal" began in 2015 when it became known that Volkswagen had installed an illegal shutdown device in the engine control of its diesel vehicles.

The device was intended to circumvent the statutory limit values for car exhaust gases.

According to Volkswagen, the software is installed in around eleven million vehicles worldwide.

As a result of the scandal, Winterkorn resigned as Volkswagen CEO in 2015 and the company has already paid fines of 29 billion euros. (one euro currently equals to 1.13 U.S. dollars).


Merkel welcomes new "dieselgate" policy compromise in Germany

BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has welcomed a policy compromise reached by Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer and the national automotive industry on Friday.

Martina Fietz, a spokesperson for the federal government, told the press that Merkel considered the latest development to "definitely be a step in the right direction."

The chancellor expected the industry to "assume its responsibility" in the emissions-cheating scandal and would continue to monitor the development of their related talks with Scheuer.

On Thursday, carmakers agreed to enhance financial offers made to owners of older diesel vehicles following protracted negotiations with the ministry of transport.

Merkel’s government has repeatedly stated that it is keen to prevent cities from imposing diesel driving bans as a final resort to improve urban air quality and would instead promote fleet-renewal measures and so-called "hardware upgrades" to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution.

During the latest round of talks between Scheuer and automotive executives, the major Volkswagen and Daimler Groups have both agreed to foot a bill of up to 3,000 euros (3,400 U.S. dollars) per vehicle to conduct hardware upgrades.

While BMW continues to oppose this specific form of technical retro-fitting, the Munich-based company said that it would also contribute the same amount in funding per vehicle for other "producer-specific measures".

As a number of German cities where courts have ordered outright bans to ensure compliance with European Union (EU) clean air legislation continues to grow, Merkel has told the press that she would seek to pass legislation to outlaw such "disproportionate" measures where NOx emissions levels are only slightly above EU emissions limits.

A spokesperson for the ministry of the environment noted on Friday that it was too early to say whether 3,000 euros per car would cover the cost of all necessary retrofitting measures.

However, the spokesperson expressed confidence that in most the amount of funds needed to upgrade older diesel vehicles would be below that figure.

Audi fined 800 million euros in "dieselgate" scandal

BERLIN Germany (Xinhua) -- German carmaker Audi was handed an 800-million-euro (927.8 million U.S. dollars) regulatory fine by the Munich State Prosecution Office in the course of "dieselgate" investigations, Volkswagen AG, the mother corporation of the luxury carmaker, announced on Tuesday.

"Audi AG has accepted the fine and hence accepts its responsibility", a statement by Volkswagen read.

The official reasoning for the fine was provided with Audi’s "divergence from regulatory requirements" in its production of certain diesel motors.

The exact sum was arrived at from the combination of a punitive penalty of five million euros, the highest which can be awarded under German law in such cases, and an estimated 795 million euros in additional earnings which the Ingolstadt-based company had derived from the illicit behavior in question.

Volkswagen predicted that the development would have an immediate effect on its own financial performance and that of its subsidiary in 2018.

"Taking special one-off effects from the fine order into account, the Audi corporation will underperform key financial targets from its forecast for the 2018 fiscal year significantly", Volkswagen wrote.

Porsche SE, the holding company of the Porsche-Piech family which owns the majority of publicly-listed Volkswagen Group shares, also expects net profits for this year to fall by around 900 euros to between 2,5 and 3.5 billion euros as a consequence.

Volkswagen Group, the world’s largest carmaker by sales, admitted to manipulating exhaust system testing results in more than 10 million vehicles as early as September 2015 and has since had to pay more than four billion euros in legal settlements with customers there.

In Germany, the Brunswick State Prosecution has already ordered the mother corporation to pay one billion euros in fine to plaintiffs during the summer in a similar case to the one now concluded at Audi.

Nevertheless, Justice Minister Katarina Barley has called for an overhaul of German law which would allow judicial authorities to punish corporations for criminal wrongdoing more effectively rather than just being able to prosecute individual members of staff.

Referring to the "dieselgate" scandal specifically, Barley argued that the government should create possibilities to take a more aggressive stance against businesses where fraud or corruption were "systemic" issues. (1 euro = 1.16 U.S. dollars).


German prosecutors have levied a huge fine on car maker 'Porsche' for dereliction of
duty in the emissions-cheating scandal that has engulfed parent company Volkswagen



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