The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday filed criminal charges against former Volkswagen AG CEO Martin Winterkorn, accusing him of conspiring to cover up the German automaker's diesel emissions cheating.
The scandal has cost the company more than $30bn in settlements, fines, fixes and compensation to date - the majority of the sum in the U.S. as its behaviour broke American law.
Following the meeting, Winterkorn also authorized the company to continue lying to USA authorities.
"Volkswagen deceived American regulators and defrauded American consumers for years", U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said.
The indictment alleges that Winterkorn specifically approved the efforts to mislead regulators about the falsified emissions claims.
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On Friday, German prosecutors said the USA charges would not affect their separate investigation into whether VW executives, including Winterkorn, committed fraud and market manipulation. The indictment that was unsealed on Thursday alleges that VW's scheme to cheat legal requirements reached the top of the company.
Eight other individuals have now been charged by United States authorities in the scandal.
Dr Winterkorn, meanwhile, could still face prosecution in Germany itself.
Dr Winterkorn, who became chief executive in 2007, has said he was unaware of the issue until shortly before it became public.
The automaker through a prepared statement said it continues to fully cooperate with the Justice Department's investigations into individual's conduct and it would not be appropriate to make any comment on the ongoing cases.
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Winterkorn's indictment brings the United States criminal case to the uppermost levels of Volkswagen, which pleaded guilty a year ago to lying to American environmental regulators about emission control systems. Two VW engineers have been jailed after pleading guilty to participating in the conspiracy.
Another former manager, Giovanni Pamio, faces possible extradition from Germany to the United States.
Winterkorn is the ninth individual against whom United States criminal authorities have announced charges in connection with this matter.
The September 2015 disclosure that VW intentionally cheated on emissions tests for at least six years using secret software led to Winterkorn's ouster, damaged the company's reputation around the world and prompted massive bills.
The scandal became public almost three years ago when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that about a half million Volkswagens equipped with diesel engines had been found with on-board software to defeat pollution controls. Current CEO Herbert Diess, who had joined the company weeks earlier from BMW, was also present at the meeting, according to a document released by VW in 2016.
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The indictment alleges that, at that meeting, Winterkorn did not order his subordinates, including Schmidt, to disclose the cheating, but instead agreed to continue to attempt to deceive regulators. In March 2017, VW pleaded guilty to the criminal charges and acknowledged that it had installed software created to modulate harmful nitrogen oxide output depending whether the vehicle was being tested or driven on a road.