Frankfurt Am Main: German prosecutors said on Tuesday they had charged Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess, former boss Martin Winterkorn and supervisory board chief Hans Dieter Poetsch with “market manipulation” relating to the car giant's “dieselgate” scandal.
The three are “accused of deliberately informing capital markets too late about the significant payment obligations in the billions arising from the so-called 'diesel scandal', thereby illegally influencing the share price,” prosecutors in the north German city of Brunswick said in a statement.
Tuesday's move means the trio are on the threshold of a full trial, like Rupert Stadler, former head of Volkswagen subsidiary Audi, who was charged by Munich prosecutors in July.
At issue is the sprawling 12-brand Volkswagen group's 2015 admission to manipulating 11 million vehicles worldwide to fool regulators' emissions tests.
Motor control software activated systems to reduce output of harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) only under lab conditions, while allowing them to exceed legal limits by up to 40 times in real driving.
Diess, Winterkorn and Poetsch -- who all sat on the executive board in 2015 -- failed to inform investors of the cheating as soon as they knew about it and the massive financial risks for the company, “against their legal obligation,” prosecutors said.
Diess has run VW since April 2018, but joined the board as Volkswagen brand chief in 2015.
In early September, he told AFP at the Frankfurt IAA car show that there was “no question” he would step down if charged.