Nikola founder Milton in front of a prototype: disastrous advertising show
Photo: Massimo Pinca / REUTERS
The founder and former boss of the electric vehicle manufacturer Nikola, Trevor Milton, has to stand trial for fraud.
According to the New York prosecutor's office, the 49-page indictment includes three charges of fraud - including from investors who lost a lot of money because of false information about the listed company's products.
Nikola was founded in 2015.
Since then, the Milton team has been working on alternative drive technologies for trucks and large SUVs.
In the future, these will run on the basis of electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.
The start-up also worked on charging stations for hydrogen trucks.
The plans remained largely theoretical.
Milton is now accused, among other things, of having announced that Nikola had built a "fully functional" semi-trailer truck prototype - but at the same time Milton knew exactly that this was "not operational".
Essential parts are said to have been missing, including gearboxes and motors.
With his statements, Milton wanted to encourage investors to buy shares, is the allegation.
According to the indictment, the Nikola founder wanted to "enrich himself and increase his status as a company founder."
The market value of Nikola had meanwhile risen to 8.5 billion dollars - that brought Milton closer to his goal of being one of the 100 richest people in the world.
Nikola dismissed the prosecutor's allegations.
The truck parts were removed during the presentation for safety reasons.
Company founder Milton had "never deceived anyone".
Milton resigned after fraud allegations against the company last September.
Previously, the investment company Hindenburg Research had accused Nikola of "complex fraud" based on numerous lies from Milton.
Business partners were "misled" by the start-up with the "false claim that they have important technologies", it was said, among other things.
Investors have lost "tens of thousands and sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars" through Milton's fraud, the indictment goes on to say.
The company's share lost 7.5 percent in pre-trading.
mic / AFP / AP