The trial of four former Volkswagen executives accused of fraud in the diesel-jet emissions fraud scandal has begun in the absence of the group’s former chief, whose day in court was delayed due to health reasons.
The defendants allegedly organized commercial fraud and tax evasion in connection with the scandal.
The global auto industry was shaken in September 2015, when Volkswagen admitted to tampering with millions of diesel cars to cheat pollution tests.
Last week, the court decided to separate the proceedings, postponing the trial of Martin Winterkorn, the group’s former chief executive, on grounds of ill health.
Winterkorn, 74, was initially supposed to stand trial along with the other four executives, but he recently underwent surgery, leaving him unable to appear.
The hearing in Brunswick, not far from Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, is the second important criminal trial in connection with the DieselJet scandal.
Another, involving Robert Stadler, the former head of Volkswagen subsidiary Audi, started a year ago and is still running.
The judges hope to pinpoint precisely, among the company’s engineers and directors, who were aware of the emissions cheating program, when they learned, and who gave the green light to the plan, which includes “nine million cars sold in Europe and the United States,” according to the indictment.
Among the accused is Heinz Jacob Neusser, a former technical director of Volkswagen.
The other three, named by plaintiffs as Jens H., Hanno J. and Thorsten D., held a variety of positions in product development, including emissions management.
In a statement about the start of the trial, Volkswagen said the scandal was “part of our history” and stressed that it had “learned from our past”.
The German auto giant has already paid damages, refunds and court fees of about 30 billion euros in connection with the scandal, mostly in the United States.
Winterkorn himself agreed to pay €11.2 million in compensation and interest to his former employer in a settlement with Volkswagen.
The court said the much-anticipated ex-CEO’s trial had no date yet, as paramedics were unable to provide a clear timeline for his recovery.
Winterkorn faces a separate charge in Berlin of perjury before a parliamentary committee looking into the scandal.
“Spécialiste de la télévision sans vergogne. Pionnier des zombies inconditionnels. Résolveur de problèmes d’une humilité exaspérante.”