VW ex-CEO may have known of cheating sooner – prosecutors

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By Andreas Cremer | BERLIN

BERLIN Former Volkswagen Chief
Executive Martin Winterkorn may have known sooner than he has
admitted that the carmaker was cheating on emissions tests,
German prosecutors said on Friday, as they widened an
investigation into the scandal.

VW’s acknowledgement in September 2015 that it had used
software to manipulate emissions erased billions of euros from
its market value, forced Winterkorn’s resignation and sparked
investigations and lawsuits across 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,
and Winterkorn dismissed last week recurring reports that he
knew about the cheating sooner.

Prosecutors in Braunschweig near Volkswagen’s (VW) Wolfsburg
base said on Friday they had searched 28 homes and offices in
connection with their investigation this week and had increased
the number of people accused in connection with the emissions
scandal to 37 from 21, including Winterkorn.

“Sufficient indications have resulted from the
investigation, particularly the questioning of witnesses and
suspects as well as the analysis of seized data, that the
accused (Winterkorn) may have known about the manipulating
software and its effects sooner than he has said publicly,” they
said in a statement.

Winterkorn and VW brand chief Herbert Diess have already
been subject of an investigation by Braunschweig prosecutors
over suspicions of possible market manipulation. Prosecutors are
now also probing the former CEO on suspicion of fraud.

The widening of the investigation will add to the carmaker’s
legal headaches and be grist to the mill of investors seeking
8.8 billion euros ($9.41 billion) in damage claims for the
collapse of VW’s share price after the scandal broke.

Winterkorn denied any wrongdoing when he quit on Sept. 23,
2015 but said he was clearing the way for a fresh start at VW
with his resignation. Winterkorn ran the German group for more
than eight years.

($1 = 0.9354 euros)



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