According to the news report by Bloomberg, Volkswagen’s Audi brand’s head, Rupert Stadler, has been named as a suspect in the 2015 diesel rigging scandal. This makes Stadler the highest-ranking active suspect in an investigation that is now focusing on the part that senior management had to play in this issue – three years after VW admitted to having cheated on official emissions tests.
Prosecutors in Munich announced that the homes of two senior Audi executives had been raided in relation to this investigation, one being Stadler’s and the other belonging to an Audi board member. Both executives are being investigated for falsifying public documents as well as fraud in relation to the sale of diesel cars in Europe.
Stadler became the chief of Audi in 2007 and also became a part of the company’s board in 2010. He has survived several management re-structures despite the fact that he has been accused of being complicit in the diesel emissions scandal several times. Stadler also become the head of group sales for Audi in April this year and is the only currently active member of the company’s board to be targeting in this investigation.
Interestingly, even the Chief Executive Officer of Volkswagen, Herbert Diess, investigated by German authorities over his involvement in the scandal. He has been accused of manipulating the market and failing to disclose the scandal to the company’s investors at the beginning. Diess, however, has denied all these allegations.
Besides Stadler, the other executive named as a suspect is Bernd Martens, the head of purchasing for Audi. This information was given to Bloomberg by a source that wishes to remain anonymous since the authorities still have not officially released this Audi executive’s name to the public. However, Martens’ involvement in the scandal is that he had led the task force which had been created to coordinate the handling of the diesel emissions cheating crisis with Audi’s parent company.
This news was released just as Volkswagen was holding a press briefing at its headquarters in Wolfsburg, updating the media about how the company had been increasing internal compliance as well as integrity programs. Since the scandal broke in 2015, where the US authorities revealed that the German car company had rigged more than 11 million of its diesel vehicles to cheat on official emissions tests, VW has been subjected to a whole slew of investigations as well as lawsuits. Since then, the company has had to pay out more than €25 billion (~$29.5 billion) in fines, settlements and other related costs.
The company’s biggest revenue generator, Audi, has been linked to all the three criminal investigations about diesel emissions rigging being conducted by German authorities. Previously, two Audi engineers who are also being investigated had already named Stadler as a suspect.
With the two new suspects added to the list, a total of 20 people linked to Audi are being investigated by German authorities in Munich. Of them, two of Audi’s ex-managers are being held in pre-trial prison in Munich.
Volkswagen spokesperson, Nicolai Laude stated that the company would not comment on an open investigation, however, another spokesperson did say that the company was fully cooperating with the authorities in this investigation.
Thilo Pfordte, Stadler’s lawyer, also did not respond to requests for comments. When Bloomberg called Audi to request for a comment with regard to Martens’, even this request was denied.
Despite the fact that the company has had a whistleblower system established for more than 10 years, suspicious activity related to diesel vehicles within the company was still not flagged off by employees.