Former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn will face trial in Germany on charges of market manipulation in the run-up to the diesel emissions scandal, after a court near the carmaker’s headquarters agreed to hear the case in full.
The 73-year-old — who resigned as chief executive in 2015, just days after VW revealed 11m of its vehicles were fitted with software that could cheat pollution tests — is accused of not informing investors of the defeat devices’ existence in a timely manner.
A 636-page indictment, brought last year, accuses Mr Winterkorn of having knowledge of the scandal from at least May 2015, months before VW’s first ad hoc announcement on the issue, on September 22 that year.
Shares in the German car giant plunged more than 40 per cent after the scandal came to light, wiping billions of euros off VW’s market value.
The country’s Securities Trading Act obliges board members to disclose information that could move a company’s stock price with immediate effect.
Mr Winterkorn is also charged with fraud by prosecutors in Braunschweig, and faces similar charges in the US, but is unlikely to be tried in America as Germany does not extradite its citizens.
Felix Dörr, a lawyer representing Mr Winterkorn in Germany, said the former executive “firmly rejects the accusation” of attempting to influence VW’s share price.
“The defence — with the support of renowned experts — has already proven that the accusation made by the public prosecutor’s office is unfounded for both factual and legal reasons,” Mr Dörr said.
“This will also be the result of a main hearing.”
In May, Braunschweig’s public prosecutor dropped similar charges against Hans Dieter Pötsch, chairman of VW’s supervisory board, and Herbert Diess, the manufacturer’s current chief executive, after they agreed to pay €4.5m each to the state of Lower Saxony.
In total, VW has spent more than €32bn on fines and compensation related to the diesel emissions scandal, a similar amount to its investment in electric vehicles.
Separately on Wednesday, the public prosecutor’s office brought fraud charges against eight more VW employees, including executives, accusing them of having knowledge of Dieselgate, but doing little to stop any illegal activity.
The prosecutor had already charged six VW employees in January.
No date has yet been set for Mr Winterkorn’s trial, but the one against former Audi boss Rupert Stadler, the first major Dieselgate case to be heard in Germany, will begin next week in Munich.