What role did the top managers at Audi play in the manipulation of the exhaust gas? Before the Munich Regional Court, the defendants accused the top executives of complicity. Ex-boss Stadler disagreed.
In the first criminal case for the diesel scandal at Volkswagen, two defendants made substantial allegations against the top management of VW and Audi. The defender of the accused engine developer Giovanni P. said on Tuesday in front of the Munich II district court about the manipulation of exhaust gas values: “Everyone knew about it”. A second accused engineer called the manipulations also consequences of an “authoritarian corporate culture”.
Former Audi boss Rupert Stadler must face the Munich II regional court, The former Porsche Development Director Wolfgang Hatz and the engineers Giovanni P. and Henning L., who work in engine development, are responsible for fraud, among other things. While P. and L. made extensive confessions in advance of the trial, the two former top managers deny the allegations.
Audi trial: Stadler feels treated unfairly
Stadler rejected the allegations through his defender Thilo Pfordte. “The aim of the procedure is that it turns out that the allegations made against Mr. Stadler are incorrect,” said Pfordte.
The defense attorney attacked the behavior of the public prosecutor in the previous proceedings. “The proceedings against Mr. Stadler have so far been by no means fair,” said Pfordte. He criticized the surveillance of Stadler’s phone in June 2018, after which he was arrested as acting Audi boss. During the more than four months of pre-trial detention, Stadler lost his chief post.
Stadler’s defense lawyer demands separation of the proceedings
The Stadler defense asked the court to suspend the main hearing against the former Audi boss and to separate them from the trial against the three other accused. The impression arises that the public prosecutor’s office absolutely wanted to put Stadler in the dock in this case – but the accusations relating to Stadler in the indictment only appeared artificially attached, essentially about the three other defendants.
Hatz’s defense attorney Gerson Trüg in turn attacked the public prosecutor and the defendant P. sharply. Apart from the “incorrect information” given by P. about Hatz’s role, there was “not a single piece of evidence that proves that Mr. Hatz approved or initiated the manipulation,” said Trüg. On the contrary, he would have “never” approved or accepted something like this.
It will be years before the verdict in the diesel trial
Hatz has demonstrably campaigned for Audi to have large tanks installed for the Adblue urea additive, despite the high costs, in order to reduce pollutant emissions. “Mr. Hatz did not arrange for the software to be manipulated,” said Trüg. There are “significant argumentative weaknesses” in the public prosecutor’s office.
The proceedings, which have already been scheduled for more than two years until the end of 2022, should, according to the strongly contradicting statements of the defendants, require extensive evidence. The defense of Hatz announced a comprehensive presentation of their positions, which will take several days. The defense of the defendant L. also announced a presentation that would presumably last three days.
Defense attorney: Audi belongs entirely to the dock
L., who works in the field of emissions reduction, as a kind of key witness, comprehensively admitted the prosecution’s allegations before the start of the trial. L. was “consistently” aware of the problem of the manipulated software, admitted its defenders. To understand this, it is necessary to take a look at the corporate culture at VW and Audi at the time. It was “very authoritarian,” said his lawyer.
L. also accused the top management of complicity. The message that the exhaust gas values could not be achieved without manipulation was passed on internally. “There is evidence of communication and correspondence not only within the departments, but also upwards,” said L.
Walter Lechner, the defense attorney for Giovanni P., also said that all the instructions for developing the controversial engines and the associated manipulation of emissions values had come from superiors and top management. P. and his staff had “no decision-making authority”. Lechner said that his client shouldn’t be in the dock, but Audi as a company.