Former Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn could have known about the company’s emissions scandal two months earlier than he had previously stated, according to a report in Germany’s the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
The investigation into the company’s massive emission test cheating scandal is still on, and fresh evidence from 28 homes and offices in Braunschweig near the car maker’s headquarters has led the investigators to believe that Winterkorn had lied at the time of resigning. They claim he knew about the company cheating emission tests at least two months before July 2015, contrary to his earlier claims.
Sufficient indications have resulted from the investigation, particularly the questioning of witnesses and suspects as well as the analysis of seized data, that the accused (Winterkorn) may have known about the manipulating software and its effects sooner than he has said publicly.
The accused tally has been taken up from 21 to 37, with the possibility of Winterkorn, who was CEO of Volkswagen for a period of eight years, being accused of fraud.
Winterkorn, who resigned days after the scandal erupted in September 2015 had said he couldn’t understand why he was made aware of ‘Dieselgate’ and would’ve prevented any type of deception or misleading of authorities. He had denied preexisting knowledge of the term used by U.S. regulators to describe the software VW engineers used to evade emissions standards: that is the “defeat device.”
Allegedly, Winterkorn was told directly about the diesel irregularities in a meeting July 27, 2015, where now-VW brand chairman Herbert Diess was also informed of the issue. At least that is what VW had said just a few days after the scandal broke out and threatened to spill over to the German economy.
Altogether, the company is paying some $22 billion in penalties and settlements, including a deal with U.S. consumers to buy back or repair diesel vehicles fitted with the bogus software. The current CEO Matthias Müller faces a daunting task of dealing with the fallout of the scandal and keeping the major German company’s sales volumes on track.