Braunschweig / Wolfsburg (dpa) – At the beginning of the criminal process in the VW diesel affair, the prosecutors highlighted what they saw as the clear joint responsibility of ex-CEO Martin Winterkorn for the manipulation of millions of cars.
Not only senior engineers and some members of middle management, but also the former CEO knew of the deception strategy well before admitting the fraud to the US authorities, a prosecutor said in the first meeting on Thursday. In addition to Winterkorn, four other former executives of the car manufacturer are indicted before the Braunschweig regional court.
The long-time VW boss who resigned shortly after the scandal broke out at the end of September 2015, does not have to appear in person at the main hearing at first – his part of the proceedings was cut off by the court due to health problems. Winterkorn’s role was already an issue at the start of the process. In the reading of the indictment, the public prosecutor’s office underpinned and substantiated its allegations to the former top manager in the USA in tests by scientists in the year 2014 the permissible nitrogen oxide limit values by the 15 – to 35 – exceeded times. According to the results of the investigation, he is said to have taken note of this – but he did not have the continued use of the fraudulent software stopped. “He decided against disclosure and hoped to be able to keep the legal violations secret,” said the public prosecutor. the “defeat device” – that is, the software that activated the full emission control only in test situations and switched it off during normal driving – was then openly discussed. Winterkorn called his confidante to prepare. The senior employee said to him: “We shit.” During the meeting, among other things, the extent of the threat of fines for around 500. 000 manipulated diesel vehicles in the United States was discussed. But Winterkorn’s “feared outburst of anger”, which senior engineers had expected, did not materialize.
All those present agreed to continue to conceal the shutdown function of emissions cleaning from the California environmental authority CARB at this point in time the prosecutors said. A high-ranking developer, who was also accused in Braunschweig, then remarked: “Shit, went completely wrong.” If convicted, there is a risk of imprisonment of at least six months, in serious cases of up to ten years. In some cases, the diesel emissions values incorrectly declared in the approval process and papers also result in offenses such as tax evasion, criminal advertising and aid.
Due to the great public interest, the presiding judge Christian Schütz opened the main hearing in the Braunschweig town hall . The legal consequences of the emissions scandal have cost VW more than 32 billion euros so far. Diesel customers have already been compensated in some countries, but there are also ongoing damages lawsuits with investors and other criminal proceedings Negotiation and decision »separated. This was justified with health problems of the 74 – year-old after an operation. The public prosecutor’s office lodged a complaint.
133 Trial days until the summer 2023 are planned. “It is an extensive process,” said a court spokesman – “the first to be directed against employees of VW and in which there is a large amount of damage, a large number of people affected, trust.”
After the public prosecutor’s office had to clarify some of their allegations before admitting the indictment, the court exacerbated them. A spokesman said: “The chamber had a different legal opinion than the public prosecutor.” After extensive examination of the files and the interim proceedings, she came to the conclusion that it was not just simple, but gang-like fraud.
The court justified the formal separation of the Winterkorn part with its condition after an operation : “For health reasons, Professor Winterkorn is unable to negotiate today. The negotiation should start now. It has already been postponed twice, there are four other defendants who have been investigated since 2015. In addition, the Chamber is of the opinion that the accusation against Professor Winterkorn can be dealt with in isolation because he is accused of a time-limited section. “