A court in Braunschweig, Germany today announced that former Volkswagen (VOW.DE) chief executive Martin Winterkorn must stand trial on fraud and tax evasion charges in connection with the 2016 diesel scandal, when VW was found to have installed emissions-manipulating software in millions of cars.
The case will be allowed to go to trial, the court said today, but did not confirm when the trial would begin.
The Braunschweig court also charged four other former and current VW employees with a variety of fraud and tax evasion charges.
German prosecutors had filed charges against the 73-year-old Winterkorn in 2019. Today the court amended the charges, dropping the breach of trust charges against the former CEO, but including for the possibility that the suspects acted as a criminal group.
US federal prosecutors in Detroit filed charges against Winterkorn in May 2018, accusing him of conspiring to mislead regulators and the public over vehicle emission levels. However, since Germany does not extradite its citizens, there was little chance the former head of the world’s largest car company would face trial in the US.
The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe ruled in May this year that VW must compensate a German car owner for the price of his rigged diesel vehicle, in a ruling that was expected to pave the way for similar cases.
Also in May, VW reached a €9bn (£8.2bn, $10.6bn) out-of-court settlement in Germany in a case accusing chief executive Herbert Diess and supervisory board chief Hans Dieter Poetsch of market manipulation.
The diesel scandal has cost Volkswagen some €30bn ($35bn) in fines, penalties and car buy-backs. Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler (DAI.DE) was also hit with billions in fines over emissions-manipulating devices in some models.