A German court on Wednesday decided that former Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn, along with four other former managers at the automaker, will have to face trial over their potential involvement in the automaker's diesel emissions cheating scandal.
The court, located in Braunschweig, near VW Group's headquarters, also expanded the list of charges beyond the previous charge of fraud. The new charges include organized commercial fraud. A previous charge of breach of trust has been dropped, however.
In a statement to Bloomberg, the court said the charges concern nine million vehicles sold in the United States and Europe, for which owners may have lost a combined value of 100 million euros (approximately $119 million).
Winterkorn was among the first to step down when details of the emissions cheating first became public in September 2015. He was also charged with conspiracy by the U.S. Department of Justice in May 2018 but since he resides in Germany, which doesn't normally extradite its citizens, he's been able to avoid questioning by officials here.
In Germany, prosecutors allege Winterkorn knew about the emissions cheating software since at least May 2014. They allege he was aware of a software update implemented that year in an attempt to cover up the real reason the automaker's diesel engines were producing excess emissions.
Winterkorn has denied any wrongdoing since the scandal emerged and stated in previous testimony that he only learned of the emissions cheating software at the heart of the scandal shortly before it became public in the fall of 2015.
The fallout from the diesel scandal has so far cost the VW Group and its brands 30 billion euros in buybacks, fixes, and fines in Europe and North America. And only two managers have received prison terms, in both cases in the U.S. They include Oliver Schmidt who in 2017 received a seven-year prison sentence, and James Liang who that same year received a four-year sentence.