Six years after the scandal with fraudulent data on the emissions of Volkswagen cars, four former managers and engineers of the concern were on trial in the German city of Braunschweig for their involvement in the global fraud.
About this report’s DPA.
Among other things, the defendants are accused of commercial fraud and tax evasion for installing counterfeit software on millions of cars. This is the first criminal case against VW executives in Germany.
The scandal, known as “Dieselgate,” has become the largest in the modern automobile industry. It erupted after it became known that VW cars emitted emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides many times higher than allowed, but in laboratory tests, the data were better than those of other manufacturers. The automaker illegally embedded software in the controls of diesel engines.
Prosecutors said at the first hearing that not only the top engineers but also middle managers and former board members knew about the attempted cheating by authorities in the United States, where the fraud first came to light in September 2015.
The defendants alleged that the defendants had agreed to conceal the existence of the devices from U.S. environmental regulators.
Volkswagen has since paid billions of dollars in compensation to VW diesel engine owners around the world who say the company lied to them about the environmental impact of their vehicles.
Shortly before the trial began, a Brunswick court ruled that the case against former CEO Martin Winterkorn would be the subject of a “separate hearing and decision.”
Winterkorn, 74, had been suffering from health problems since the operation. The prosecutor’s office has filed an appeal to separate the proceedings. Winterkorn stepped down from his position shortly after the scandal erupted.
Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, a lengthy trial is expected. The trial is currently scheduled for 133 days, which means that it will last until the summer of 2023.
If convicted, the defendants face prison sentences ranging from 6 months to 10 years.