German prosecutors open fraud inquiry into former Volkswagen CEO

Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:44am EST
 
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By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - German prosecutors are investigating former Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) chief executive Martin Winterkorn on suspicion of fraud, looking into when he first knew that the carmaker was rigging diesel emissions tests.

It is the second investigation into Winterkorn's role in the scandal by prosecutors in the German town of Braunschweig near Volkswagen's (VW) Wolfsburg headquarters. The former CEO is already being investigated over possible market manipulation.

VW's acknowledgement in September 2015 that it had used software to reduce emissions levels when cars were being tested in the United States wiped billions of euros from its market value, forced Winterkorn's resignation and led to investigations and lawsuits around the world.

VW has said its executive board did not learn of the software violations until late August 2015 and formally reported the cheating to U.S. authorities in early September that year.

Appearing before German lawmakers last week Winterkorn refused to say when he first learned about systematic exhaust emissions cheating but said it was no earlier than VW has officially admitted.

"For now, Dr. Winterkorn is sticking with the statement he made before a German parliamentary committee of inquiry (into the scandal) on Jan. 19," Felix Doerr, a Frankfurt-based lawyer for Winterkorn, said in an emailed statement.

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A Volkswagen (VW) logo covered with mud and dust is seen on the wheel of a car in Grafenwoehr, Germany, October 26, 2016.   REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo