Ex-Volkswagen head to be probed for suspected fraud

Berlin, Jan 27 (IANS) A German prosecutor announced on Friday launch of an investigation into a possible fraud allegedly committed by the former chairman of the Volkswagen Group in the emissions scandal plaguing the German auto manufacturer.

The prosecutor’s office of Braunschweig said it was investigating Volkswagen’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn, who headed the company between 2007 and 2015, Efe news reported.

Winterkorn is suspected of allegedly withholding information about the company’s fraudulent manipulation of mono-nitrogen oxides emissions data software so that the scandal would not affect Volkswagen’s share prices.

He was previously under investigation for alleged market manipulation, but witness interviews and the review of documents led prosecutors to believe Winterkorn could have known about the manipulated emissions software at an earlier time than what he had previously stated, which raised suspicions of intentional fraud.

The prosecutor’s office also said the number of people being investigated in this fraud case had increased from 21 to 37.

The scandal erupted on September 18, 2015, when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that Volkswagen was violating the Clean Air Act by intentionally programming diesel engines to activate certain emissions controls only during lab tests.

This programming of the software allowed the vehicles to meet the EPA’s regulatory standards during testing, but the cars would emit about 40 times more nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide _ two particles that cause significant air pollution and adverse health effects _ in real-world driving situations.

On September 23, five days after the scandal made international headlines, Winterkorn resigned as Volkswagen’s CEO.

Winterkorn also resigned as the chairman of Audi AG — a Volkswagen subsidiary — after additional revelations showed there had been further rigging of emission tests in gasoline-powered cars, not just diesel engines.