>> A scheme to cheat on smog tests could land a former auto executive in federal prison. US prosecutors charged Volkswagen's ex-CEO, Martin Winterkorn, with conspiracy to defraud the United States. The indictment, unsealed Thursday, accuses Winterkorn of wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act from at least May 2006 through November 2015 by using illicit software that allowed VW diesel vehicles to cheat smog tests.
Reuters correspondent, David Sheperdson.>> Today's unsealing of the indictment against the former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn is surprising in that this investigation's gone on a long time. And prosecutors typically don't charge the CEO's of major companies in corporate wrong doing investigations. And it is unlikely that he will ever come to the US to face charges given Germany's extradition laws.
So this indictment in part is really more symbolic. To send a message to corporate wrongdoers around the world that the United States is going to try to hold people accountable at the highest level. And it's in stark contrast to other cases involving big auto companies where senior executives were not charged.
>> Winterkorn resigned soon after the scandal broke in September 2015. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the charges allege, quote, Volkswagen's scheme to cheat its legal requirements went all the way to the top of the company. Winterkorn last year told German lawmakers he had not been informed of the cheating early and would have halted it had he been aware.
But the indictment alleges that Winterkorm was informed of VW's diesel emissions cheating in May 2014, and in July 2015 he agreed with other senior executives to continue. In total, VW has agreed to spend more than $25 billion in the United States to address claims from owners, environmental regulators States and dealers, and offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting vehicles.