Martin Winterkorn, former chairman of VW’s management board, was found guilty of conspiracy and wire fraud, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.
The 70-year-old, one of eight executives criminally charged in connection with “diesel-gate,” conspired with other top management in the company to defraud the U.S., VW’s customers and violate the Clean Air Act. Two other executives were sentenced in 2017 to 40 months in prison and 84 months in prison, respectively.
“The indictment of former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn should send a clear message that EPA and its law enforcement partners will seek to hold corporate officers accountable for alleged criminal activities at their company,” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a May 3 statement. In September 2015, the German auto maker was caught placing “defeat devices” that would reduce vehicles’ emissions when they were tested by the EPA to ensure Clean Air Act standard compliance.
The scandal has cost the company more than $30 billion total in fines assessed in the United States and Europe. The high charge has set the record for the most expensive fine ever leveled against an auto manufacturer in the U.S.
“If you try to deceive the United States, then you will pay a heavy price,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a Thursday statement. “The indictment unsealed today alleges that Volkswagen’s scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company. These are serious allegations, and we will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”
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