Former Volkswagen Group chief executive Martin Winterkorn has been charged by the United States Department of Justice over the scandal that saw the German carmaker cheat emissions tests of some of its diesel-powered vehicles.
Mr Winterkorn has been accused of conspiring to mislead regulators about the fraudulent emissions testing, defrauding US customers, and wire fraud, making him the ninth person to be hit with US criminal charges connected to the 'Dieselgate' scandal.
The 70-year-old will be the highest-ranking Volkswagen executive to face charges over Dieselgate.
In making the announcement, US attorney Matthew Schneider said: “The fact that this criminal conduct was allegedly blessed at Volkwagen’s highest levels is appalling.
“The US Attorney’s Office is committed to pursuing accountability for corporate crimes, and the Winterkorn prosecution is a reflection of that commitment.”
So far, two people have plead guilty to crimes in relation to the emissions scandal and are currently serving time in prison.
Mr Winterkorn resigned from his position at Volkswagen in October of 2015 – soon after the company's emissions testing conduct came into question – however the ex-chief was adamant that he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing.
VW has admitted that approximately 11 million of its cars worldwide were fitted with so-called 'defeat devices' that could recognise if a car was being emissions tested, and would automatically switch to a low-emissions mode.
Volkswagen's local arm claims it has had no part in the emissions cheat, saying that the vehicles' emissions ratings were already certified before they were imported to Australia.
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