Ex-Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler is facing trial over his alleged involvement in a global car industry diesel fraud.
Prosecutors in Munich announced on Wednesday they were charging Mr Stadler with fraud and other offences arising from their investigation into Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen Group.
Mr Stadler and three others will go on trial, accused of knowing about cheat software built into diesel engines that boosted exhaust filtering if the car detected a test situation. In normal road use, the cars emitted levels of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) far above permitted levels.
The 56-year-old former Audi executive is accused of knowing “in September 2015 at the latest of manipulation . . . and still allowed or not hindered the sale of affected vehicles of the brands Audi and VW”.
The case against Mr Stadler, according to the prosecutor, affects 250,712 vehicles from Audi, 71,577 VW vehicles and 112,131 cars from Porsche.
“The vehicles were sold in particular in the US and European markets,” the prosecutors added.
Mr Stadler, who was charged alongside three others, was detained for several months last year amid concerns that he had attempted to influence a witness in the case. A wiretapped phone-call allegedly revealed how Mr Stadler discussed leave of absence of an employee with knowledge of diesel fraud.
Last October VW ended Mr Stadler’s contract after 11 years as Audi chief executive. Mr Stadler originally came to the attention of German investigators after claims he knowingly manipulated a presentation on VW diesel software for the US environmental authority EPA.
He took his detention to Germany’s constitutional court, which refused to take on the case. A Munich court later allowed his release but imposed a strict ban on contact with other suspects and Audi employees.
Four years on, the Volkswagen Group has yet to free itself from the shadow of diesel manipulation that has reportedly affected as many as 11 million vehicles worldwide.
Since the diesel scandal was uncovered nearly four years ago, Volkswagen keeps getting dragged back into its biggest corporate crisis. Allegations have been swirling ever since about who knew what when within VW’s top brass about the manipulation of as many as 11 million diesel cars worldwide.
In April, former Volkswagen head Martin Winterkorn was charged with serious fraud for his role in the dieselgate affair.
The final decision on whether Mr Winterkorn and Mr Stadler will face trial rests with courts in Braunschweig and Munich respectively.