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3 weeks ago

News Source: nytimes.com
Rupert Stadler, Ex-Audi Chief, Charged With Fraud In Diesel Scandal
fraud stadler volkswagen

Rupert Stadler, Ex-Audi Chief, Is Charged With Fraud In Diesel Scandal

BERLIN — German prosecutors on Wednesday charged Rupert Stadler, former chief executive of the Audi luxury car division of Volkswagen, with fraud for the company’s role in a diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Mr. Stadler and three others who were not named were accused of developing illegal emissions software used in cars sold under the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands as part of a wider effort to cheat diesel emissions tests, Munich prosecutors said in a statement.

The charges were the latest in Germany’s efforts to investigate and prosecute the architects of the scandal that has rocked the country’s automobile industry and laid bare the extent to which the companies tried to make diesel appear to be an environmentally friendly fuel option. The state court in Munich will now decide whether to bring the charges to trial.

The four were also charged with falsifying certificates and illegal advertising. The charges related to hundreds of thousands of Audi, Porsche and Volkswagen vehicles with engines that were rigged to limit emissions while in a test environment, but allow higher levels when on the road. The vehicles were produced between 2009 and 2015 and were sold in Germany and the United States.

Volkswagen was found in 2015 to be using software to artificially lower a vehicle’s emissions levels when it was undergoing tests. In 2017, the German carmaker pleaded guilty to a vast emissions deception and agreed to pay $22 billion in penalties and settlements in the United States. Initially, the investigation focused only on Volkswagen, but it later widened to include other brands, including Audi, Daimler and Porsche.

Prosecutors said in a statement that Mr. Stadler had known about the manipulation “by the end of September 2015 at the latest,” but continued to allow the cars to be sold or failed to take any action to prevent their sale.

Mr. Stadler’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment; in the past, Mr. Stadler has denied any wrongdoing in the scandal.

Mr. Stadler, 56, served as the chief executive of Audi for more than a decade, until he was arrested in June 2018. He was held for four months before being released on bail, but with restrictions to his movements. If the Munich court agrees to take up the case and he is convicted, the former executive could face up to five years in prison, or a fine to be determined by the court.

A spokesman for Audi responded to the charges on Wednesday, saying that it was in the interest of employees, shareholders and the company for the issues surrounding the emissions cheating scandal to be legally cleared up.

Audi paid a fine of 800 million euros, then about $930 million, in October for its role in the scandal, as part of a civil case that was separate from the Munich prosecutors’ criminal investigation of Mr. Stadler.

This year, prosecutors in Braunschweig, in northern Germany, charged a former chief executive of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, with aggravated fraud as part of a separate investigation into the cheating scandal. Mr. Winterkorn and several other Volkswagen executives also face charges brought by the Department of Justice for conspiring to rig diesel vehicles to feign compliance with American pollution standards.

Documents that were recently seen by The New York Times show that Audi managers and engineers in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, where the company’s headquarters are, were just as willing as their counterparts at Volkswagen to cheat in pursuit of the company’s goal of becoming the largest carmaker in the world — perhaps even more so.

“We won’t make it without a few dirty tricks,” an employee in Audi’s diesel motor development department wrote in an email to colleagues in January 2008, summarizing road tests that confirmed diesel models could not meet emissions standards.

Audi managers and engineers bluntly discussed what was in effect a criminal conspiracy, using terms, like “defeat device” and “cycle beating,” that clearly connote illegal attempts to defeat the testing procedures used by regulators.