Rupert Stadler, chief executive officer of Audi AG, was arrested in Munich Monday morning on suspicion of fraud, according to German prosecutors.
The CEO, who took the helm at Audi in 2007 after joining the company in 1990, was taken into custody following a years-long probe into Volkswagen Group’s emissions cheating. While the automaker has already paid a steep price at home and abroad for its defeat device-equipped diesel engines, today marks the highest profile arrest so far in the ongoing investigations.
According to German media, prosecutors claim Stadler poses a flight risk, meaning he’ll remain in custody for the time being.
“The arrest warrant is based on concealment of evidence,” Munich prosecutors said, according to Deutsche Welle. Stadler denies involvement in the conspiracy to side-step environmental regulators via rigged engines.
The judge Stadler appeared before this morning declared he be remanded in custody pending further charges.
Germany’s lengthy criminal probe into Volkswagen Group’s dirty dealings ramped up earlier this month. On June 1th, prosecutors listed Stadler as a suspect after raiding his home. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed a March indictment against former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, implicating him in the conspiracy. Should Winterkorn ever set foot in the U.S., he’ll face four felony charges of conspiring to defraud the country. However, it’s German authorities he’ll need to worry about.
While the list of Audi suspects is 20 employees long, Stadler’s reign at the automaker overlaps completely with the diesel affair, which began ahead of the launch of the automaker’s 2009 model year vehicles. Stadler joined Audi’s board in 2003.
The illegal software at the heart of the diesel emissions scandal is said to have originated from Stadler’s division, leading to suspicions over how much the CEO knew. In its 2017 annual report, VW Group claims the decision to allow defeat devices came from persons below the board level. That decision was made in 2006, the automaker said.
However, last year a fired Audi engineer claimed he held proof of Stadler’s knowledge of the deception, though it isn’t known whether the engineer’s evidence or testimony led to today’s arrest.
According to a BBC report, Stadler should undergo questioning by Wednesday. A VW Group board meeting was immediately scheduled to discuss Stadler’s arrest.
[Image: Audi AG]