New VW boss in ‘safe passage’ deal

Not long after US authorities filed sealed charges against Volkswagen’s old chief executive, they granted the new CEO a rare ‘safe-passage’ deal.

The Justice Department agreement allows Herbert Diess, promoted last month to lead the German car-maker, to travel the world without fear of being arrested in connection with the US’s diesel-rigging investigation. 

Mr Diess also received a spoken assurance that he would be given advance notice, should prosecutors seek to charge him in its emissions-cheating probe. 

Mr Diess, who joined the car-maker a couple months before the scandal became public in September, 2015, isn’t accused of wrongdoing.

The agreement makes it possible for Mr Diess to effectively run the sprawling, 12-brand behemoth, which has 120 factories across the world. 

As CEO, one of his primary tasks will be hopping around the globe to represent the firm at major events, such as car shows, plant openings, and new-model releases.

The deal was approved after the former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, was indicted, under seal, in March. 

The charges against Mr Winterkorn, who would face arrest if he travels to the US, were made public on May 3.

The Justice Department agreement suggests that Mr Diess has some concern about potential scrutiny by US authorities, or at least wanted extra insurance against being detained during his frequent travels. 

Volkswagen pushed back last week, against a US House of Representatives request for Mr Diess to testify about the company’s efforts to address diesel-cheating. 

Former prosecutors and criminal defence lawyers described the deal as unusual. 

They said it could imply that the US believes it won’t charge Mr Diess, or that he may be providing useful information.

Mr Diess spent more than two decades in the German car business, including at Robert Bosch and BMW.

As a fresh recruit at VW, he participated in a routine “damage table” meeting on July 27, 2015, in Wolfsburg, where emissions irregularities in the US were explained to managers, according to a 2016 company statement.

- Bloomberg

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