FRANKFURT – Pressure mounted on Volkswagen Automotive Group on Monday as German prosecutors launched a criminal investigation of former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn and other unnamed executives on suspicion of fraud in connection with an emissions cheating scandal that has rocked the car maker.
Mr. Winterkorn stepped down as the CEO of Volkswagen last week after the car maker’s admission that it used software to manipulate emission tests.
The prosecutors in the German state of Lower Saxony said they are investigating Mr. Winterkorn for alleged fraud after they received several criminal complaints.
The focus of the investigation is to clarify who can be held responsible for the alleged fraud, which made Volkswagen cars perform better in emission tests than on the road. Volkswagen has said that 11 million cars world-wide are affected by the software.
Last week, when Mr. Winterkorn stepped down, he said he accepts “responsibility for the irregularities” but said he wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing on his part. Key members of Volkswagen’s supervisory board also said last week they believed Martin Winterkorn had no knowledge of the manipulation of emissions data.
Prosecutors said they also received a criminal complaint by the car manufacturer itself against an unknown third party.
By Ulrike Daue