Audi boss Rupert Stadler was arrested on Monday as part of the ongoing investigation into the VW Group’s wider dieselgate scandal.
Stadler is the most senior company official so far to be taken into custody over the German carmaker’s part in the emissions cheating actions first highlighted in 2015.
Munich prosecutors said Rupert Stadler was being detained due to fears he might hinder an ongoing investigation into the scandal, plunging VW into a leadership crisis.
Emissions arrest: Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, seen here speaking during the company’s annual news conference in Ingolstadt in March, has been detained due to fears he might hinder an ongoing investigation into the dieselgate scandal
News of the arrest comes as VW’s new group CEO Herbert Diess is trying to introduce a new leadership structure – which includes Stadler – and speed up the group’s shift towards electric vehicles in the wake of the biggest motoring scandal in modern history.
It comes just a week after Volkswagen said it is being fined one billion euro (£880 million) by German authorities in connection with dieselgate.
Volkswagen said it would accept the fine imposed by prosecutors in the German city of Braunschweig.
Prosecutors concluded that Volkswagen failed to properly oversee the activity of its engine development department, resulting in some 10.7 million diesel vehicles with illegal emissions-controlling software being sold worldwide.
Mercedes-Benz last week was also told to recall 238,000 vehicles in Germany after the transport ministry reported that they were fitted with emissions-cheating defeat devices.
A total of 774,000 models across Europe are said the be equipped with the same technology.
Speaking on Monday in regards to Stadler’s arrest, Munich prosecutor’s office said: ‘As part of an investigation into diesel affairs and Audi engines, the Munich prosecutor’s office executed an arrest warrant against Mr Professor Rupert Stadler on June 18, 2018.’
A judge in Germany has ordered that Stadler be remanded in custody, it said, to prevent him from obstructing or hindering the diesel investigation.
Audi and VW confirmed the arrest and reiterated there was still a presumption of innocence for Stadler.
Sadler is expected to be a figurehead of VW’s new group CEO Herbert Diess’ revised leadership structure that aims to speed-up the development of electric vehicles in the wake of the dieselgate scandal
A spokesman for the brand said Stadler’s arrest would be discussed at a supervisory board meeting on Monday.
VW admitted in September 2015 to using illegal software to cheat U.S. emissions tests on diesel engines, sparking the biggest crisis in the company’s history and leading to a regulatory crackdown across the auto industry.
The United States filed criminal charges against former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn in May, but he is unlikely to face U.S. authorities because Germany does not extradite its nationals to countries outside the European Union.
The Munich prosecutors said Stadler’s arrest was not made at the behest of US authorities.
The executive was arrested at his home in Ingolstadt in the early hours on Monday, they said.
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