US prosecutors charge ex-Volkswagen CEO in diesel scandal

US prosecutors charge ex-Volkswagen CEO in diesel scandal

Martin Winterkorn, the former CEO of Volkswagen, has been indicted on wire fraud and conspiracy charges over an international emissions scandal, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The four counts against Winterkorn, who resigned amid the scandal in 2015, are related to Volkwagen's alleged efforts to skirt United States diesel emissions standards.

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“The indictment unsealed today alleges that Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company. These are serious allegations, and we will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law," Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma White House proposes executive order to Trump that would examine tech companies’ practices MORE said in a statement.

"I want to thank the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, the Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan as well as our partners at the EPA, FBI and in Germany for their hard work on this important case.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015 said it found that Volkswagen had programmed its automobiles to deceive emissions tests — allegations the automaker admitted to at the time.

EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE said the indictment sends "a clear message" that the agency will hold corporate executives responsible "for alleged criminal activities at their company."

The indictment, which was filed in March, says Winterkorn and other Volkswagen employees conspired to violate the Clean Air Act by facilitating "false material statements," and therefore defrauded American consumers and regulators.

Volkswagen has reached several settlements over the cheating scandal, including one announced this week with West Virginia in which the automaker agreed to pay the state $2.65 million for failing to comply with the emissions standards.

“Volkswagen deceived American regulators and defrauded American consumers for years,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement.  

“The fact that this criminal conduct was allegedly blessed at Volkswagen’s highest levels is appalling. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to pursuing accountability for corporate crimes, and the Winterkorn prosecution is a reflection of that commitment.”