FRANKFURT — German prosecutors have set aside a securities-law case against the former CEO of Volkswagen because he could face heavier penalties in a separate criminal fraud case connected to the company’s 2015 diesel emissions scandal.
The court in the city of Braunschweig said in a statement Friday that the securities case had been halted at the request of prosecutors. They did so under a legal provision that lets them put cases aside if another, more serious charge has been brought so that a conviction on the lesser change would not add substantially to the sentence.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a notice of violation against Volkswagen in September 2015, saying the company had used illegal engine software to have vehicles pass emissions tests and then emit many times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide during everyday driving. Nitrogen oxide is a pollutant that harms human health.
The company paid more than 31 billion euros ($37.5 billion) in fines and court settlements and two executives went to prison in the United States. Winterkorn and several others were charged in the U.S. but he cannot be extradited under German law.
In the securities case, Winterkorn had been charged along with board chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch and current CEO Herbert Diess with violating their duty to inform investors that the company was in trouble with U.S. authorities. Diess and Poetsch were allowed to end the case by paying 4.5 million euros each.
The court said the trial of Winterkorn and five co-defendants on the fraud charges is scheduled to begin Feb. 25. German media reports indicate it could be delayed. He faces up to 10 years if convicted.
The Associated Press