Four former Volkswagen Group executives have been tried in Germany, accused of fraud for their role in the diesel rigging scandal that cost the company billions and damaged its reputation.
The lawsuit, which began six years after the scandal broke, is the first to target executives who allegedly supported the idea of circumventing emissions tests with a software trick at VW’s German headquarters.
The German legal system generally does not allow public identification of the prosecuted.
The unnamed executives were accused in 2019 of allowing vehicles to be equipped with a so-called “defeat device” that masked their actual emissions during testing. Case covers 9 million cars sold in Europe and the US
“As administrators, they were definitively responsible for violations of emissions rules in Europe and the United States,” prosecutors said at the start of the hearing in Brunswick (Braunschweig in German) on Thursday. “The rules were implemented to protect the environment and people’s health.”
Volkswagen settled the criminal investigation three years ago by paying German prosecutors 1 billion euros.
NS diesel emissions scandal It has cost the automaker more than 30 billion euros ($35.3 billion) so far, including heavy sanctions that are part of a deal with US authorities.
The company is still facing civil lawsuits, including a €9 billion investor class action in its home country.
The long-awaited trial has been postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic and is expected to extend until 2023.
The four executives will comment on the allegations later in the case.
VW’s former CEO Martin Winterkorn was initially indicted along with four former executives, but his case was postponed for health reasons.
The 74-year-old actress has repeatedly denied the allegations.