First trial of an automobile boss in Germany in the “Dieselgate” scandal

The former chairman of Volkswagen subsidiary Audi will be the first German auto boss to stand trial on charges of fraud on Wednesday, five years after the massive scandal over rigged diesel engines was exposed.

Rupert Stadler, 57, will face “fraud”, “issuing false certificates” and “false advertising”, according to the Munich prosecution count.

He will appear alongside former Audi and Porsche manager Wolfgang Hatz, and two engineers from the four-ring marque.

They face up to 10 years in prison.

So far, no official has been convicted in Germany in connection with this planetary affair that erupted in 2015, when the automobile giant Volkswagen admitted to having installed devices in 11 million vehicles worldwide to make them appear. less polluting in laboratory tests than they actually are.

Faced with media interest, the Munich court decided to hold the trial in one of its annexes located on the outskirts of the Bavarian capital, but the number of places will nonetheless be limited, due to related restrictions. to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to one of its spokespersons.

Complex trial

Joined Audi in 1990 and CEO from 2007, Mr. Stadler had already been in June 2018 the first automotive executive placed in pre-trial detention in this case, because suspected by the courts of seeking to influence witnesses or other suspects, before being released.

He was replaced by the Dutchman Bram Schot, a defector from rival Daimler who arrived at VW in 2011.

The prosecution suspects him of having been aware of the manipulations towards the end of September 2015 “at the latest” without having prevented the sale of hundreds of thousands of vehicles equipped with the cheating software.

His three co-defendants are accused of having developed diesel engines equipped with this system, installed in vehicles since 2009.

The charges relate to a total of 434,420 vehicles of the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands marketed mainly in Europe and the United States.

Mr. Stadler has consistently dismissed the charges, as has Mr. Hatz. His lawyer said he would speak “in detail” about the charges against him during the complex trial set to last until the end of December 2022.

The charge, which will be read in full at the first hearing, is over 90 pages long.

The “Dieselgate” invoice

Mr. Stadler may not be the only boss who has to explain himself to the judges for long.

In early September, the Brunswick court announced that former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and four other former group officials would face trial on charges of “organized gang fraud” and “aggravated tax evasion”. He added the chief of stock price manipulation on Thursday and must now set a date for the trial.

The current CEO of the group, Herbert Diess, and the chairman of the supervisory board, Hans Dieter Pötsch, had them avoided a lawsuit last year, by means of a financial transaction of 9 million euros, under an agreement with Justice.

Five years after the revelation of the “Dieselgate”, the manufacturer has settled a large part of the criminal and civil component for a total bill that exceeds 30 billion euros. Most of it was paid in the United States.

In Germany, he agreed to pay some 750 million euros to compensate 240,000 customers and, after an unfavorable decision by the country’s highest court, is rushing to propose out-of-court settlements to settle a large part of the 60 000 requests remaining.

Volkswagen and brands in the group have also paid three fines totaling 2.3 billion euros to end the investigations.

In civil matters, the last major lawsuit remains that of investors demanding compensation for the plummet in the share price after the revelations, still pending.

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