Audi CEO files legal complaint against arrest in "dieselgate" scandal


(Photo: AP)

Audi chief executive officer (CEO) Rupert Stadler has filed a legal complaint against his recent imprisonment in the course of German "dieselgate" investigations, the Munich II State Prosecution Office confirmed on Thursday.

If successful in his complaint, Stadler could be released again from police custody as he awaits the formal opening of a court trial to probe Audi's involvement in the diesel emissions scandal.

The 55-year-old and another unnamed senior manager at the company are suspected of committing offenses that include criminal fraud and "indirect false certification" in the marketing of diesel vehicles, which were fitted with defeat devices to understate their actual Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions.

German investigators believe that the Ingolstadt-based luxury carmaker has sold at least 210,000 diesel vehicles with illegal emissions-cheating software in the US and Europe since 2009. According to prosecutors, Stadler must have been aware of the illicit practices following first revelations in the United States back in 2015 but still refused to halt sales of affected vehicles in Europe thereafter.

During the past weeks Stadler has provided a first testimony to prosecutors while imprisoned at the Augsburg-Gablingen penitentiary facility near Munich. It remains unclear whether or not the CEO denied the accusations against him.

In the meanwhile, Stadler has been temporarily replaced in his role on the Audi management board by Bram Schot. The Volkswagen Group, Audi's mother corporation, has repeatedly emphasized that it is cooperating fully with German authorities in their investigations.

Stadler's arrest marked the first time that a member of the management board of a German carmaker was taken into police custody in the diesel emissions scandal. "The signal which the incident sends it not just shocking, but also sad", transport minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) commented at the time.

Nevertheless, Volkswagen has hesitated to fire Stadler prior to a conclusion of judicial proceedings against him and has only suspended the jailed CEO for now. Stadler's contract is regularly scheduled to expire in 2022.