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Audi chief investigated in VW emissions scandal
[FRANKFURT] German prosecutors said Monday that they had opened a fraud investigation against Rupert Stadler, the head of Volkswagen's Audi division, a widening of a long-running inquiry into the company's emissions cheating.
Mr Stadler, whose home was raided by investigators, is the first active member of Volkswagen's management board to be identified as a suspect in the inquiry. The scandal, which involved cheating on diesel emissions, has already cost the company tens of billions of dollars and led to the arrest or imprisonment of several key executives.
Volkswagen has admitted that the software used to conceal excess diesel emissions was first developed at Audi, which Mr Stadler has overseen since 2007. Audi diesels were also among some 11 million vehicles equipped with the software, which was designed to ensure they spewed lower levels of emissions during laboratory testing than during normal driving conditions.
Investigators have raided Audi offices and employees' homes several times in recent months, and they have said that former members of the management board were suspects, although until Monday they had excluded Mr Stadler.
Prosecutors said Monday that they were also investigating another member of Audi's top management. They did not identify the person, in line with German rules designed to shield people who are not considered public figures. However, two people with direct knowledge of the investigation confirmed a report in the Bild newspaper that the second suspect was Bernd Martens, head of purchasing for Audi.
Audi said it was cooperating fully with investigators but declined to comment further. Volkswagen also declined to comment.
The investigation of Mr Stadler, who has not yet been charged with any crimes, is likely to intensify criticism that Volkswagen has taken too long to replace executives who were part of the system that allowed the cheating to take place.
There was no indication Monday that Mr Stadler would resign or be forced out as a result of the inquiry.
Mr Stadler is also suspected of false advertising, Munich prosecutors said in a statement.