Audi CEO Rupert Stadler, who was seen this spring promoting the brand’s efforts in Formula E at the Rome and Paris E-Prix races, couldn’t escape Volkswagen AG’s dark past on Monday. He was arrested at his home in Ingolstadt and is being detained for fear that he might obstruct or hinder an ongoing investigation into the huge emissions test cheating scandal that broke out in 2015 and continues to plague the German automaker.
He is the most senior company official so far to be taken into custody over what’s better known as “Dieselgate.”
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“As part of an investigation into diesel affairs and Audi engines, the Munich prosecutor’s office executed an arrest warrant against Mr Professor Rupert Stadler on June 18, 2018,” Munich prosecutors said in a statement, adding that the arrest was not made at the behest of U.S. authorities. They apparently want to make sure he won’t suppress or change any crucial evidence.
Both Audi and Volkswagen have confirmed the arrest and reiterated there is still a presumption of innocence for Stadler, who of course has yet to make any sort of comment. The man has always denied any wrongdoing in Dieselgate, even though he was named as one of 18 key suspects by the Munich public prosecutor's office in late May, along with another Audi board member, Bernd Martens.
His detention for questioning comes one week after German authorities raided his private residence and accused him of fraud and falsification of documents for events that date back to 2012.
This will definitely make things more difficult—at least in the short term—for new Volkswagen AG boss Herbert Diess, who is trying to implement a new leadership structure that includes Stadler while shifting the group’s focus towards electric vehicles.
According to the Financial Post and Autoblog, Stadler’s arrest will be discussed at a supervisory board meeting on Monday.
Meanwhile, the former head of engine development at Audi, Wolfgang Hatz, has been in jail since September 2017.