German prosecutors open new Volkswagen emissions probe

German prosecutors are looking at whether former Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn was too slow to tell investors about the potential cost of the diesel-emissions scandal, adding to the legal woes weighing on Europe’s largest carmaker.

The probe is reviewing when Volkswagen should have disclosed the risks to investors sooner, prosecutors in Braunschweig said in an emailed statement yesterday.

On September 22, four days after the cheating became public, Volkswagen set aside €6.5bn to cover the cost of fixing rigged engines in as many as 11 million diesel cars worldwide.

The figure later grew to €16.2bn for legal and other costs.

“There is sufficient evidence that the duty of making a statement about the significant financial losses the company could expect may have existed at an earlier point,” prosecutors said.

The investigation will be fresh fodder for investors who have criticised Volkswagen’s handling of the diesel crisis, with one group seeking €3.3bn in a lawsuit over how the company informed markets about the cheating.

The carmaker will face investors at its annual meeting on Wednesday without having disclosed how the cheating came about or the details of its fix for the US market.

The probe centers on Winterkorn and another senior executive whom prosecutors didn’t identify, saying only it’s not current supervisory board chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch, who was chief financial officer when the scandal broke last September.

Volkswagen is looking into the matter, a company spokesman said yesterday. Felix Doerr, a lawyer for Winterkorn, didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The German carmaker faces hundreds of lawsuits in Europe and the US, and prosecutors are looking into allegations against 17 individuals potentially involved in rigging the engines in a separate probe.

Volkswagen plans to submit a $10bn settlement in the US by a June 28 court deadline, although it doesn’t yet have final regulatory approval on a retrofit for the vehicles, a person familiar with the situation said last week. 


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