U.S. Grand Jury Indicts 4 Audi Managers Over ‘Dieselgate' Scandal
WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury handed down indictments to four managers at luxury automaker Audi for their role in the "dieselgate" scandal. All of the managers worked in Audi's engine development division and are accused of tampering with engine control software to mask excessive emissions from Audi and Volkswagen vehicles equipped with diesel engines.
The grand jury indicted Audi managers Richard Bauder, Axel Eiser, Stefan Knirsch and Carsten Nagel. Bauder was head of Audi's Diesel Engine Development department.
A Justice Department spokesman said to Reuters that none are in custody and are believed to be in Germany. However, the country does not typically extradite its citizens for prosecution in U.S. courts.
The four managers are charged in a 12-count indictment with conspiring to evade U.S. emissions standards in diesel vehicles sold in the United States with 3.0-liter engines. The vehicles include the 2009-2015 Audi Q7 and VW Touareg SUVs, as well as other Audi Q5, A6, A7 and A8 diesel models.
They are accused of wire fraud, violating the U.S. Clean Air Act, as well as conspiracy.
The indictment said the Audi managers realized they could not meet U.S. pollution standards given design constraints by Audi "including the need for a large trunk and high-end sound system."
Audi engineers told Bauder in 2008 that unless the tank was larger "Audi had to cheat to pass U.S. emissions tests" and ensure that drivers could go 10,000 miles between dealer service visits, the indictment said.
U.S. prosecutors previously charged former VW Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn, who remains in Germany. Two other former VW executives have pleaded guilty in the investigation and are in prison.
Volkswagen spokesman Pietro Zollino said the company continues "to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals. It would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases."
In 2016, It was reported that the emission cheating software instigating the Dieselgate scandal was actually developed by Audi, not Volkswagen.
The automaker suspended Knirsch, Audi's Research & Development head, after Investigations revealed that he knew about the emission cheating software fitted in the 3.0 litre TDI engine. He later resigned.
In total, Volkswagen has agreed to pay more than $25 billion in the United States for claims from owners, environmental regulators, individual states and dealers. Volkswagen AG, Audi's parent company, has offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles. The buybacks will continue through 2019.
The cheating software was installed in as many as 900,000 vehicles. In the U.S., VW already bought back 350,000 diesel-powered vehicles from customers. Unable to legally sell them, the vehicles are being stored in over 30 locations around the U.S, including tens of thousands at a sprawling desert location near Victorville, in Southern California.
In 2017, VW also pleaded guilty to fraud, obstruction of justice and falsifying statements in a U.S. court. Under the plea deal, the automaker agreed to sweeping reforms, new audits and oversight by an independent monitor for three years.
Former Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler was not among those indicted. He was terminated by Volkswagen in October 2018 after being investigated in Germany for his alleged role in the plot.
As part of VW's retribution for its role in dieselgate, the company established Electrify America to promote the adoption of EVs. Over a 10-year period ending in 2027, Electrify America is investing $2 billion in zero emission vehicle infrastructure and education programs in the U.S.
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