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Former VW boss’s fraud trial pushed back over Covid-19

Published on January 25, 2021

Former Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn’s trial over the car giant’s emissions-cheating scandal has been postponed until April due to the coronavirus pandemic, a German court said Monday.

Winterkorn, 73, and four former colleagues had been due to stand trial on fraud charges over their role in the so-called dieselgate affair from February.

But the pandemic “makes the postponement of the start of the main hearing to a date in the spring seem appropriate”, according to the court in Brunswick, near VW’s headquarters in Wolfsburg.

Winterkorn’s trial will now begin on April 20 and is expected to wrap up in 2023.

Volkswagen sank into a quagmire of legal problems over revelations in September 2015 that it had installed devices in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide to make them seem less polluting in lab tests than they actually were on the road.

Winterkorn resigned days after the revelations while denying any personal wrongdoing.

The scandal plunged one of the main pillars of German industry into the biggest crisis in its history.

The carmaker has already paid out more than 30 billion euros ($36 billion) in fines, legal costs and compensation to car owners — mainly in the United States.

Last year, it paid nine million euros to settle market manipulation charges against current chief executive Herbert Diess and supervisory board chair Hans Dieter Poetsch.

No senior executive has been convicted in Germany so far in connection with the scandal.

However, the first trial of a VW leader linked to dieselgate opened in Munich in September 2020.

Rupert Stadler, former CEO of VW subsidiary Audi, along with other executives and engineers, are on trial over fraud charges, with hearings scheduled until December 2022.