Rupert Stadler, the former CEO of the manufacturer Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, becomes Wednesday the first German automobile boss to be tried for fraud in his country, five years after the revelation of the vast scandal of rigged diesel engines.
Mr. Stadler, 57, will have to answer for "fraud", "issuance of false certificates" and "false advertising", according to the charges of the Munich prosecutor's office.
He is appearing alongside former Audi and Porsche manager Wolfgang Hatz, and two engineers from the Four Rings brand.
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They face up to 10 years in prison at the end of this complex trial scheduled to last until the end of December 2022, the first in Germany in this global case that erupted in 2015.
The car giant Volkswagen had admitted to having installed devices in 11 million vehicles around the world making them appear less polluting during laboratory tests than they actually are.
The media interest in Mr. Stadler's appearance is immense.
The trial will be held in one of the annexes to the Munich court, in the Stadelheim district, but the number of places will nonetheless be limited due to restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
90 pages of accusation
The German investigation quickly focused on Audi, responsible within the Volkswagen group for part of the research and development of engines.
Joined the brand with the rings in 1990 and CEO from 2007, Mr. Stadler was already in June 2018 the first automotive executive placed in pre-trial detention in this case - because suspected by the justice of seeking to influence witnesses or other suspects - before being released.
The prosecution accuses him of having been aware of the manipulations towards the end of September 2015
"at the latest",
without having prevented the sale of hundreds of thousands of vehicles equipped with the cheating software.
His three co-defendants are accused of having developed diesel engines equipped with this system, installed in vehicles since 2009. The charges relate to a total of 434,420 vehicles of the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands marketed mainly in Europe and the States. -United.
Mr Stadler has consistently rejected the charges, as has Mr Hatz, whose lawyer said he would speak
The charge, which will be read in full at the first hearing, is over 90 pages long.