Bloomberg News report
GENEVA (Oct. 1, 2015) — German prosecutors were forced into a U-turn in their investigation of former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn after admitting they may have been too quick to name the executive as the focus of their probe amid a review of the diesel emissions scandal at the auto maker.
In a fresh statement Oct. 1, the Lower Saxony prosecutor's office said that there must be “concrete facts” before a probe into Mr. Winterkorn is opened as they investigate accusations of fraud at the auto maker. They removed a statement from earlier in the week.
The apparent slip-up shows the pressure German prosecutors are under to get to the bottom of who ultimately ordered the creation of software that allowed some Volkswagen Group diesel cars to cheat U.S. emissions testers for years.
The initial probe against Mr. Winterkorn came after VW and others filed complaints calling for a criminal investigation into whether fraudulent measures were taken to sell cars that didn't meet emissions standards. It was “too early” to name Mr. Winterkorn, said Christoph Schalast, a professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance. “An initial suspicion must be based on facts, and you must begin an investigation before you can establish the facts.”
It seemed Mr. Winterkorn “had been prejudged,” Mr. Schalast said. The scandal has rocked Germany, prompting Mr. Winterkorn to resign last week, and has wiped more than 25 billion euros from the company's market value.