By News writing
Posted on Sep 30, 20 at 2:33 p.m.
updated on 30 Sep 20 at 14:33
Five years after the 'dieselgate' burst, the old CEO of Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, became on Wednesday September 30, 2020 the first boss to respond to a German court in Rigging of diesel engines, gigantic scandal which the national auto industry is still struggling to recover.
Rupert Stadler, 57, responds to 'fraud', 'issuing false certificates' and 'false advertising' and appears alongside former Audi and Porsche manager Wolfgang Hatz as well as two brand engineers to the four rings.
Trial until 2022
They risk up to 10 years in prison at the end of this complex trial scheduled to last until the end of December 2022, the first in Germany in this planetary affair that erupted in 2015, when two engineers from the VW group have already been sentenced to prison in the United States.
The auto giant had admitted to installing devices in 11 million vehicles worldwide that made them appear less polluting in laboratory tests than they actually were.
The media interest in Mr Stadler's appearance in one of the annexes of the Munich court in the Stadelheim district is immense, an influx that resulted in the start of the trial being delayed by 20 minutes. The number of places has, however, been limited due to restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
90 pages of accusation
The German investigation quickly focused on Audi, which was responsible for part of the research and development of engines within the Volkswagen Group.
Joined the brand in 1990 and CEO from 2007, Mr. Stadler was already in June 2018 the first automotive executive placed in pre-trial detention in this case – because suspected by the justice of seeking to influence witnesses or 'other suspects – before being released.
The prosecution accuses him of having been aware of the manipulations towards the end of September 2015 "at the latest", without having prevented the sale of hundreds of thousands of vehicles equipped with the cheating software.
His three co-defendants are accused of having developed engines equipped with this system, installed in vehicles since 2009.
The charges relate to a total of 434,420 vehicles of the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands marketed mainly in Europe and the United States.
Mr Stadler has consistently rejected the charges, as has Mr Hatz, whose attorney said he would speak "in detail".
The first hearing will be devoted to reading the indictment, which is over 90 pages long.
Compensation and fines
Mr. Stadler may not be the only boss who has to explain himself to the judges for long.
Former Volkswagen Group boss Martin Winterkorn is awaiting a trial, the date of which has not yet been set, for gang fraud, aggravated tax evasion and stock price manipulation.
For its part, five years after the revelations in the United States, Volkswagen has drawn a line under much of the scandal for a bill exceeding 30 billion euros.
Most of it was paid in the United States. In Germany, the manufacturer, which is now betting everything on the electric car, has spent some 750 million euros to compensate 240,000 customers. And he is trying, after an unfavorable ruling from the country’s highest court, to come up with out-of-court settlements to settle many of the remaining 60,000 complaints.
The current CEO of the group, Herbert Diess, and the chairman of the supervisory board, Hans Dieter Pötsch, last year avoided a lawsuit, by means of a financial transaction of 9 million euros, under an agreement with the justice.
Volkswagen and brands within the group have also paid three fines totaling 2.3 billion euros to end the investigations.
In civil matters, the last major lawsuit remains that of investors demanding compensation for the plummeting share price after the revelations, opened in September 2018 and still ongoing.
Source: © 2020 AFP