May 3 (UPI) — Former Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn faces conspiracy and and wire fraud charges in the United States for the German company’s high-profile emissions scandal, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
The four-count indictment unsealed in Detroit accuses Winterkorn of conspiring with other senior executives to defraud the United States, U.S. customers and violate the Clean Air Act by lying to regulators and the public about VW’s emissions. The remaining three counts of the indictment accuse the former CEO of wire fraud.
Volkswagen has been fined billions of dollars for using “defeat devices” in vehicles allowing them to circumvent U.S. emissions laws. The total cost to the company from the scandal is now near $30 billion.
“If you try to deceive the United States, then you will pay a heavy price,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.
In December, a federal judge sentenced Oliver Schmidt, Volkswagen’s former compliance liaison with American regulators, to seven years in prison for one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and another for violating the Clean Air Act. Winterkorn is the highest current or former VW executive to face criminal charges.
“Volkswagen deceived American regulators and defrauded American consumers for years,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said. “The fact that this criminal conduct was allegedly blessed at Volkswagen’s highest levels is appalling.”