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Winterkorn facing criminal investigation

Investigated: Former CEO Martin Winterkorn is under scrutiny over whether VW Group dieselgate information was withheld.

Former VW Group chief Martin Winterkorn accused of market manipulation

21 Jun 2016

THE former CEO of Volkswagen Group, Martin Winterkorn, has been implicated in criminal proceedings in Germany, with investigators examining whether the publically listed company withheld information about the diesel emissions scandal from the market prior to September 2015.

Mr Winterkorn, along with a current, unnamed member of VW Group’s board, is the subject of the investigation launched by the prosecutor’s office of Braunschweig, Lower Saxony, which is also Volkswagen’s home state and the owner of 20 per cent of the company’s shares.

This latest investigation will centre on whether or not the company was in a position to publically disclose the financial implications of the scandal, which now involves more than 11 million cars worldwide, prior to admitting to the issue in September 2015.

“Whether the stated initial suspicion will grow stronger or weaker depends on the findings of the necessary further investigations,” the prosecutor's office said in a statement, adding that it has “sufficient real signs” to suggest the company was indeed able to disclose information that would affect its market status prior to September 22 last year.

VW Group chairman Hans Dieter Potsch is not part of the investigation, despite being the company’s chief financial controller at the time of the scandal breaking, according to the statement.

The Braunschweig office is currently investigating 17 Volkswagen staff members on suspicion of fraud around the diesel emissions scandal.

Mr Winterkorn, who has always maintained that he had no knowledge of the illegal software installed in VW diesel cars that fooled emissions tests, resigned from his various posts at the company in October last year.

The news of the latest criminal investigations comes just two days before the company faces is first annual shareholder meeting since the scandal broke. Last month, new VW Group CEO Matthias Mueller told VW workers that the scandal would inflict “substantial and painful” damage on the company.

Volkswagen also announced last month a wide-scale analysis of its own operations which is designed to pull down costs ahead of the huge financial hit expected from the scandal, while it has been reported that up to 30 models will be cut from the group’s fleet in the next two years.

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