BERLIN — German prosecutors on Wednesday charged Rupert Stadler, former chief executive of the Audi luxury car division of Volkswagen, with fraud for the company’s role in a diesel emissions cheating scandal.
Mr. Stadler and three others who were not named were accused of developing illegal emissions software used in cars sold under the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche brands as part of a wider effort to cheat diesel emissions tests, Munich prosecutors said in a statement.
The charges were the latest in Germany’s efforts to investigate and prosecute the architects of the scandal that has rocked the country’s automobile industry and laid bare the extent to which the companies tried to make diesel appear to be an environmentally friendly fuel option. The state court in Munich will now decide whether to bring the charges to trial.
The four were also charged with falsifying certificates and illegal advertising. The charges related to sales of 250,712 Audis, 71,577 Volkswagens and 112,131 Porsches in Europe and the United States, prosecutors said.
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Volkswagen was found in 2015 to be using software to artificially lower a vehicle’s emissions levels when it was undergoing tests. In 2017, the Germany carmaker pleaded guilty to a vast emissions deception and agreed to pay $22 billion in penalties and settlements in the United States. Initially, the investigation focused only on Volkswagen, but it later widened to include other brands, including Audi, Daimler and Porsche.
Prosecutors said in a statement that Mr. Stadler had known about the manipulation “by the end of September 2015 at the latest,” but continued to allow the cars to be sold or had failed to take any action to prevent their sale.
Mr. Stadler was arrested in June 2018, but released on bail four months later. He has denied any wrongdoing in the scandal. If the Munich court agrees to take up the case and he is convicted, the former executive could face up to five years in prison, or a fine to be determined by the court.
A spokesman for Audi responded to the charges on Wednesday, saying that it was in the interest of employees, shareholders and the company for the issues surrounding the emissions cheating scandal to be legally cleared up.
Audi paid a fine of 800 million euros, then about $930 million, in October for its role in the emissions cheating scandal, as part of a civil case that was separate from the Munich prosecutors’ criminal investigation involving the charges against Mr. Stadler.