FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Former Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn will face charges of conspiracy to commit organized commercial fraud with a high likelihood of conviction, a court probing the carmaker’s diesel emissions scandal said on Wednesday.
A court in Braunschweig, Germany, near where Volkswagen is headquartered, expanded the list of charges beyond fraud to include organized commercial fraud, preliminary remarks published by the court at the start of the trial showed.
Winterkorn and other Volkswagen executives face charges for their role in allowing diesel cars with illegal emissions-masking software to hit the road.
Because Volkswagen vehicles had higher pollution levels than was declared, they should have been subject to higher road tax, and former Volkswagen executives should therefore also face charges of tax evasion and false advertising, the court added.
The scandal, which was uncovered by U.S. authorities in September 2015, has cost Volkswagen more than 30 billion euros ($35 billion) in refits, legal fees and settlements, and resulted in a drastic management and strategy overhaul.
A lawyer for Winterkorn said his client denied the charges. The accusations against Winterkorn are limited in scope and relate to a specific instance in time, the lawyer added.
Volkswagen said that while it was no longer the target of prosecutors after settling charges, it wanted to emphasize that all of the accused were innocent until proven guilty.
Volkswagen also said it had taken extensive measures to change processes, systems and controls to improve compliance in the wake of the emissions scandal.