Almost six years after the so-called
the scandal about the manipulation of toxic gas emissions carried out by Volkswagen, the trial against four former senior executives began this Thursday in Braunschwig, although without the presence of the former CEO of the group, Martin Winterkorn, whose trial has been postponed for health reasons.
The former directors are charged with organized gang fraud and aggravated tax fraud in connection with the scandal that broke out on September 18, 2015, when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a A letter he had sent to VW, in which he pointed out to the world's largest automaker that the values of toxic gas emissions, measured on test benches, had nothing to do with the toxic gases produced by cars on the road.
Just two days later, Volkswagen admitted to misleading the EPA and said it had deliberately installed software in more than 11 million vehicles in various diesel models to avoid emission limits. It was the beginning of a scandal that has cost VW more than 32,000 million euros in the United States alone in payment of fines and compensation and that ended the successful career of Martin Winterkorn.
This Thursday, the Braunschweig court began the process against the four defendants - a former head of development of the VW brand and three executives of the department of technology and engines and traction - but last week the justice decided to postpone, without a defined term, the process against Martin Winterkorn, who was president of the company between 2007 and 2015, and who has just undergone surgery for a hip ailment.
The mission of the judges will be to answer several key questions that still have not been answered, for example, if engineers or managers of the group were aware of the deception, when did they know it, who devised the ruse and, more importantly, who gave the order to install the software.
Martin Winterkorn, who was formally accused by the Braunscheig prosecution in April 2019 of having committed the crimes of fraud, violation of competition laws and breach of trust, said shortly after resigning from his position that he was not “aware of any wrongdoing ”and his lawyer, Felix Dörr, in a response to the prosecution's allegations noted:“ Mr. Winterkorn had no prior knowledge of the selective use of prohibited motor control software ”.
But in June 2021, following internal investigations by a law firm, VW closed a compensation deal with Winterkorn whereby the former CEO paid VW € 11.2 million.
The lawyers had found evidence of negligence but not of intent.
On the eve of the start of the trial, the prosecution said the fraud charge concerned some nine million vehicles that were sold in Europe and the United States.
"It has been a serious detriment to clients of several hundred million euros," said the prosecution.
The trial, which can last until mid-2023, is the second major criminal trial in Germany related to the
Since September 2010, the former head of Audi, Rupert Stadler, is on trial in Munich, along with three other executives. The prosecution accuses them of fraud for selling diesel cars with manipulated emission values.
Former Audi engine chief and later member of the Porsche Board of Directors, Wolfgang Hatz, and two senior Audi engineers reportedly rigged more than 400,000 diesel engines as of 2008 to pass emissions tests but emit more nitrogen oxides in road. The two engineers have confessed the sins committed, but have suggested that they were only recipients of orders.