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German prosecutors open fraud investigation against former Volkswagen CEO

German prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation against former Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn in connection with an emissions scandal that has plunged the company into crisis.

The public prosecutor's office in the state of Lower Saxony said Monday that the focus of the investigation against Winterkorn will be on accusations of fraud through the sale of vehicles with manipulated emissions data. "The direction of the investigation is in particular to clarify the responsibilities," the office said in an emailed statement.

The investigation was launched after criminal complaints were filed, including one filed by the German car maker itself.

Winterkorn resigned as CEO of the Volkswagen Group last Wednesday, saying he was not aware of "any wrongdoing" on his part. "I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group," Winterkorn said in a video message released last week.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced earlier this month that four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009 through 2015 were found to include software that circumvents EPA emission standards for certain air pollutants. As a result of a "sophisticated software algorithm," cars with the software would meet emissions standards while being tested, but emit nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the U.S. standard during normal operation.

In addition to the investigation in Germany, the U.S. Justice Department last week launched its own criminal investigation into Volkswagen's actions.

(Copyright 2015 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

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