Audi CEO Rupert Stadler arrested on suspicion of fraud over emissions cheating scandal

The head of Volkswagen's luxury arm Audi was arrested on Monday, the most senior company official so far to be taken into custody over the German carmaker's emissions test cheating scandal.
Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler at Audi's annual general meeting in Ingolstadt, Germany, on May 9, 2018.
Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler at Audi's annual general meeting in Ingolstadt, Germany, on May 9, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

FRANKFURT (REUTERS) - The head of Volkswagen’s luxury arm Audi was arrested on Monday (June 18), the most senior company official so far to be taken into custody over the German car-maker’s emissions test cheating scandal. 

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. 

Volkswagen has nominated Bram Schot as interim chief executive, Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung said later on Monday. 

Munich prosecutors said Mr Rupert Stadler 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 comes as VW’s new group CEO 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 Professor 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. 

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. 

Volkswagen’s supervisory board has nominated Bram Schot as interim chief executive at Audi following Mr Stadler's arrest, Sueddeutsche Zeitung said on Monday, without citing sources. 

Audi’s supervisory board has yet to sign off on the nomination, Sueddeutsche said.  A Volkswagen spokesman said the carmaker had not yet made a formal decision about a new chief executive for Audi. 

Mr Stadler is the most senior company official to be detained so far since Volkswagen (VW) admitted in September 2015 to using illegal software to rig US emissions tests on diesel engines. 

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 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 US authorities. 

The executive was arrested at his home in Ingolstadt, in the early hours on Monday, they said.