Former VW boss Martin Winterkorn 'charged' in U.S. over dieselgate

US prosecutors charge former VW chief Winterkorn

The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed an indictment today charging former Volkswagen AG leader Martin Winterkorn with conspiracy and wire fraud linked to the automaker's effort to cheat U.S. diesel emissions standards.

Winterkorn, 70, has been named as a co-conspirator along with five other men who were named in an earlier federal indictment along with Oliver Schmidt, a former Volkswagen executive.

The 70-year-old stepped down from the German carmaker in September 2015, following revelations that the company had been cheating on diesel engine emissions tests using software created to dupe regulators.

According to the indictment, Winterkorn was told of the problem and questioned how USA regulators were threatening to delay certifying 2016 cars for sale, at a July meeting in Wolfsburg, Germany, where the company is based, according to Bloomberg News. It is unclear, however, if German prosecutors are pursuing a parallel investigation that could lead to charges in the disgraced executive's home country.

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Winterkorn resigned soon after the scandal over polluting vehicles in the United States became public in September 2015. As part of a plea deal, VW paid a $2.8 billion penalty and agreed to allow an independent monitor to oversee compliance with emissions testing for at least three years.

Winterkorn stepped down from his role at Volkswagen in September of 2015, only a matter of days after the German auto maker confessed to outfitting 11 million cars with a device created to cheat at emissions testing. He is the ninth person charged by the U.S. government in this scandal. Sessions added the government will "prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law".

According to documents which surfaced on Thursday, the charges against Winterkorn were filed in March but were only unsealed this week.

Volkswagen said in a statement that it does not comment on individual cases. The company already pleaded guilty to various related charges in United States federal court, and it has paid out billions of dollars in fines and buybacks to former customers.