An indictment unsealed on Friday revealed federal charges against former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn for conspiring to mislead U.S. regulators about vehicle emissions standards. According to the indictment and previous charges, many Volkswagen senior officials participated in the conspiracy to falsely market “clean cars” while secretly deceiving regulators.
“The purpose of the conspiracy was for Dorenkamp, Neusser, Hadler, Gottweis, Peter, Winterkorn, and their co-conspirators to unlawfully enrich VW and themselves by, among other things, (a) deceiving U.S. regulators in order to obtain the necessary certificates to sell diesel vehicles in the United States; (b) selling VW diesel vehicles to U.S. customers knowing that those vehicles were intentionally designed to detect, evade and defeat U.S. emissions standards; (c) deceiving U.S. customers by marketing VW diesel motor vehicles as ‘clean diesel’ and otherwise environmentally-friendly; and (d) concealing VW’s intentional emissions cheating from U.S. regulators, U.S. customers, and the U.S. public,” the indictment says.
“From at least in or about May 2006 until in or about November 2015, Dorenkamp, Neusser, Hadler, Gottweis, Peter, Winterkorn, and their co-conspirators agreed to defraud U.S. regulators and U.S. customers, and violate the Clean Air Act, by misleading U.S. regulators and U.S. customers about whether the Subject Vehicles and the Porsche Vehicles complied with U.S. emissions standards. During their involvement with the design, marketing and sale of the Subject Vehicles and the Porsche Vehicles in the United States, Dorenkamp, Neusser, Hadler, Gottweis, Peter, Winterkorn, and their co-conspirators: (a) knew that the Subject Vehicles and the Porsche Vehicles did not meet U.S. emissions standards; (b) worked collaboratively in designing, testing, implementing, and improving software they knew that VW was using to cheat the U.S. testing process by making it appear as if the Subject Vehicles and the Porsche Vehicles met U.S. emissions standards when, in fact, they did not; and (c) attempted to and did conceal these facts from U.S. regulators and U.S. customers.”
According to the recently unsealed indictment, Winterkorn conspired with other senior VW executives and employees to defraud the United States, defraud VW’s U.S. customers and violate the Clean Air Act by making false representations to regulators and the public about the ability of VW’s supposedly “clean diesel” vehicles to comply with U.S. emissions requirements. The remaining three counts charge Winterkorn with wire fraud in connection with the scheme.
“If you try to deceive the United States, then you will pay a heavy price,” stated Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday. “The indictment unsealed today alleges that Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company. These are serious allegations, and we will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law. I want to thank the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, the Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan as well as our partners at the EPA, FBI and in Germany for their hard work on this important case.”
“Volkswagen deceived American regulators and defrauded American consumers for years,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider. “The fact that this criminal conduct was allegedly blessed at Volkswagen’s highest levels is appalling.”
“The indictment of former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn should send a clear message that EPA and its law enforcement partners will seek to hold corporate officers accountable for alleged criminal activities at their company,” stated EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
So far, nine people have been charged in the case, while two have pleaded guilty. Six former Volkswagen executives charged in the case remain in Germany and have avoided facing U.S. prosecutors because Germany usually does not extradite its citizens.