Germany investigates VW's ex-boss over fraud allegations

Mon Sep 28, 2015 12:04pm EDT
 
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By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - German prosecutors launched an investigation on Monday into fraud allegations against former Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE: Quote) boss Martin Winterkorn, showing their determination to get quickly to the bottom of a scandal over rigged emissions tests that has rocked the global car industry.

The German company also suspended three top engineers, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters, as it tries to get to grips with a crisis that has knocked more than a third off its market value and could harm Germany's economy.

Volkswagen has admitted cheating diesel emissions tests in the United States but Germany's transport minister says it also manipulated tests in Europe, where it has much bigger sales, and it faces the worst business crisis in its 78-year history.

The German prosecutor's office said it was investigating Winterkorn over "allegations of fraud in the sale of cars with manipulated emissions data" based on charges filed by about 10 unidentified individuals.

Winterkorn, replaced as chief executive on Friday by company veteran Matthias Mueller, said when he quit last week that he was not aware of any wrongdoing on his part and wanted to give the company a new start.

The crisis is an embarrassment for Germany, which has for years held up Volkswagen as a model of its engineering prowess and has lobbied against some tighter regulations on automakers. The German car industry employs more than 750,000 people and is a major source of export income.

"The car industry is crucial for the German economy. It (the

scandal) can have a big impact on the German economy," Deputy Finance Minister Jens Spahn told a conference.   Continued...

 
An enthusiast wears a Volkswagen logo on his hat while attending the Wasteland Weekend event in California City, California September 26, 2015.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni