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German MPs to grill VW ex-boss over 'Dieselgate'

AFP  |  Berlin 

Disgraced former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn faces a grilling by German lawmakers today, as accusations grow of top executives at the beleaguered auto giant colluding to cover up emissions cheating.

The former CEO's testimony will be "particularly important" in light of the latest allegations against the VW group, said Herbert Behrens, who heads a special parliamentary committee investigating the "dieselgate" scandal.

Winterkorn resigned in September 2015, days after the VW group admitted it had installed software in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide to dupe emissions tests and make the cars seem less polluting than they were.

A fastidious perfectionist with the nickname "Mr Quality", Winterkorn had once boasted jokingly in an interview: "I know every screw in our cars."

But the former chief executive said he knew nothing of the pollution cheating scam.

US investigators have turned up the heat on Volkswagen in recent weeks, revealing that they believe VW top brass were aware of the cheating as far back as July 2015.

They also arrested VW executive Oliver Schmidt, formerly responsible for US compliance issues, and charged him with fraud and conspiracy over the dieselgate controversy.

"The arrest of a VW manager and his declarations to the FBI are directly relevant to the work of the parliamentary committee," Behrens said in a statement last week, adding that it was essential to establish "when the VW board was informed" of the cheating.

According to the FBI, Schmidt and other Volkswagen employees in July 2015 briefed senior executives at its German headquarters of the defeat device, saying regulators were not aware of the mechanism.

"Rather than advocate for disclosure of the defeat device to US regulators, VW executive management authorised its continued concealment," the FBI said.

Volkswagen has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States as well as to obstruction of justice for destroying documents related to the scheme.

As part of the deal, it has also agreed to pay USD 4.3 billion in civil and criminal fines.

But according to the final settlement running to 86 pages, the group does not clarify who holds responsibility within the company for the scandal.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Thu, January 19 2017. 12:42 IST