FRANKFURT • The head of Volkswagen's luxury arm Audi was arrested yesterday, making him the most senior company official to be taken into custody so far in the probe into an emissions test cheating scandal that has engulfed the carmaker and its parent for almost three years.
Munich prosecutors said Mr Rupert Stadler, 55, was being detained due to fears he might hinder an ongoing investigation into the scandal, plunging Volkswagen (VW) into a leadership crisis.
News of the arrest in Munich comes as VW's new group chief executive Herbert Diess is trying to introduce a new leadership structure, which includes Mr Stadler, and speed up the group's shift towards electric vehicles in the wake of its emissions scandal.
"As part of an investigation into diesel affairs and Audi engines, the Munich prosecutor's office executed an arrest warrant against Mr Rupert Stadler on June 18, 2018," the Munich prosecutor's office said in a statement.
A judge in Germany has ordered that Mr Stadler be remanded in custody, it said, to prevent him from obstructing or hindering the diesel investigation. He was arrested at his home in Ingolstadt, in the early hours yesterday.
Audi and VW confirmed the arrest and reiterated there was still a presumption of innocence for Mr Stadler. Mr Stadler himself was not immediately available for comment.
A spokesman for Porsche SE, the company that controls VW and Audi, said Mr Stadler's arrest would be discussed at a supervisory board meeting.
VW admitted in September 2015 to using illegal software to cheat US emissions tests on diesel engines, sparking the biggest crisis in the company's history and leading to a regulatory crackdown across the auto industry.
The United States filed criminal charges against former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn in May, but he is unlikely to face the US authorities because Germany does not extradite its nationals to countries outside the European Union.
The Munich prosecutors said Mr Stadler's arrest was not made at the behest of the US authorities.
REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST