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Audi CEO targeted in German prosecutor's emissions probe

Reuters 2018-06-11 16:01:45

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German prosecutors on Monday said they have widened an emissions cheating probe against Volkswagen’s luxury car brand Audi to include Chief Executive Rupert Stadler among the suspects accused of fraud and false advertising.

Audi head of the board Herbert Diess (L) and CEO Rupert Stadler attend company's annual shareholders meeting in Ingolstadt, Germany May 9, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Dalder/Files

The Munich public prosecutor’s office said it is now probing 20 suspects, and that it had on Monday searched the apartment of Stadler and one other current board member.

“Since May 30, 2018 the chairman of the board of Audi AG Prof. Rupert Stadler as well as a further member of the management board are now named suspects,” the Munich prosecutor’s office said.

The probe triggers a leadership crisis at Audi and its parent Volkswagen where Stadler in April was elevated to the post of head of sales for the entire group.

Munich prosecutors said the two suspects are being probed for suspected fraud and false advertising and their suspected role in helping to bring cars equipped with illegal software on to the European market.

Audi said it is fully cooperating with the prosecutors.

Stadler was not immediately available for comment.

Audi, the biggest contributor to Volkswagen’s profit, admitted in November 2015 that its 3.0 litre V6 diesel engines were fitted with a device deemed illegal in the United States that allowed cars to evade emissions limits.

Audi said last month that it had discovered emissions-related problems with a further 60,000 cars, dealing a fresh setback to Volkswagen more than 2-1/2 years after it first admitted to cheating U.S. diesel exhaust tests.

Stadler ran finance at Audi for four years before becoming CEO in 2007. He was a confidant of, and former assistant to, then-VW chairman Ferdinand Piech, the scion of Volkswagen’s controlling clan who was himself ousted in 2015.

In March Audi’s 20-strong supervisory board recommended that shareholders endorse Stadler as chief executive even as prosecutors raided Audi to investigate who was involved in the use of any illicit software deployed in the affected 80,000 VW, Audi and Porsche cars in the United States.

Reporting by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Edward Taylor and Dale Hudson