VW chief exec faces probe over emissions scandal

FRANKFURT • German prosecutors said yesterday that they had opened a new investigation into Volkswagen chief executive officer Matthias Mueller and others over market manipulation in the wake of the carmaker's Dieselgate scandal.

"The accused are suspected of knowingly delaying telling shareholders about the financial consequences for Porsche of software manipulation in diesel vehicles by Volkswagen," the prosecutors in the south-western city of Stuttgart said.

Holding company Porsche SE - separate from VW subsidiary Porsche AG - owns a controlling stake in the world's largest carmaker, with its stable of 12 brands ranging from luxury Audi to generalist Skoda.

Along with Mr Mueller, former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn and Porsche SE chairman Hans-Dieter Poetsch are also suspected of failing to share information about the emissions cheating affecting 11 million cars revealed in 2015.

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Investigators opened the dossier in February, in response to charges levelled by German financial supervisor BaFin in summer last year.

It is the first time Mr Mueller has been targeted by prosecutors over market manipulation, while Mr Winterkorn, Mr Poetsch - a former chief financial officer at VW - and VW brand chief Herbert Diess already face probes.

Volkswagen faces an array of legal challenges in Germany and worldwide relating to its software, designed to fool regulatory nitrogen oxide emissions tests.

Shareholders and car buyers have launched suits seeking compensation, while prosecutors in Brunswick, north Germany, are investigating 37 individuals at the company for fraud.

Others face probes over incorrect carbon dioxide emissions data.

The gigantic carmaker has so far set aside more than €22 billion (S$34 billion) to cover fines and compensation related to the Dieselgate affair, but experts estimate the final bill could be much higher.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2017, with the headline 'VW chief exec faces probe over emissions scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe