Three years after US authorities uncovered long-standing emissions cheating by Volkswagen, Germany’s slow-moving criminal investigation seems to making headway.
Authorities in Munich arrested Audi CEO Rupert Stadler today (June 18) after a raid on his home last week reportedly led to concern that he could attempt to suppress evidence or impede the investigation. Last week, the Braunschweig state prosecutor fined Volkswagen, Audi’s parent, €1 billion ($1.2 billion) for outfitting 11 million diesel cars with emissions-manipulating software.
Volkswagen said in a statement that the “principle of the presumption of innocence continues to apply to Mr. Stadler.” However, according to multiple reports, the VW board has already decided to replace Stadler with its sales chief Abraham Schot.
Unlike VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, who was forced to resign not long after the scandal broke, Stadler hung onto his job—even amid calls for his resignation—after Audi was exposed for installing emissions-manipulating software in its cars too. He has been CEO since 2007, and a member of the Volkswagen board since 2010.
Winterkorn has not faced prosecution in Germany. The US Department of Justice issued an arrest warrant for him in May, but as long as he doesn’t leave Germany, he can’t be picked up or extradited to face trial in the US.
Stadler is the first automotive CEO to be arrested in Germany since the scandal at VW broke and then spread to include all big German brands. Oliver Schmidt, VW’s emissions compliance executive in the US, was arrested in Florida last year, and later sentenced to seven years in prison.
Last month, Germany’s Motor Transport Authority ordered Audi to recall and fix 60,000 A6 and A7 diesel cars alleged to have the illegal software installed.