Frankfurt | The former head of Audi Rupert Stadler will appear from September 30 in connection with the “dieselgate”, the first senior official of the Volkswagen group to respond in Germany to this sprawling scandal, justice announced on Monday.
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Mr. Stadler and three other Audi executives or ex-executives were fired at the end of July 2019 for “fraud”, “issuing false certificates” and “false advertising” before judges specializing in economic crimes.
The trial is expected to last at least until December 2022, the Munich regional court said in a statement.
The prosecution accuses Mr Stadler, 57, of having continued to sell some 434,000 diesel cars equipped with software rigging their nitrogen dioxide emissions, when he became aware “by the end of September 2015” of this manipulation.
For the moment, no senior official has been tried in Germany in this scandal, revealed in September 2015, when Volkswagen admitted to having rigged 11 million vehicles with software capable of making them appear less polluting during laboratory tests than on the roads.
These manipulations plunged the German automobile industry, industrial flagship and pride of the country, in a historical crisis from which it is still struggling to get out.
Joined Audi in 1990 and CEO for 11 years from 2007, Mr. Stadler had been placed in pre-trial detention for four months in 2018, suspected by the justice system of seeking to influence witnesses.
This is one of the last major trials expected in Germany, when Volkswagen has drawn a line under much of the penal and civil aspect.
Current group CEO Herbert Diess and chairman of the supervisory board Hans Dieter Pötsch were also fired last September for manipulating the financial markets. But they will avoid a lawsuit against a 9 million euro financial transaction under an agreement with the courts.
The former head of the automotive group, Martin Winterkorn, remains the last senior official still in the ante-room of a trial.
The Volkswagen group suffered a first legal setback in Germany at the end of May before the highest civil court, which has ordered partial reimbursement of customers, and will now offer amicable settlements to settle a large part of the remaining 60,000 requests in the country. And under a previous deal, Volkswagen will spend at least 750 million euros to compensate 235,000 customers.
But it is only a small part of the total bill of the scandal for the manufacturer, more than 30 billion euros, including several billion in the United States to generously compensate customers.
In civil, the last major lawsuit remains that of investors seeking compensation for the plunge in the share price after the revelations.
Audi, for its part, agreed in October 2018 to pay a fine of 800 million euros decided by the Munich prosecutor’s office, because of “breaches” of its “duty of supervision” concerning the approval of diesel cars.