January 18, 2018 — Audi CEO and head of Volkswagen group sales Rupert Stadler was arrested earlier this morning as part of the ongoing diesel scandal that has roiled parent company The Volkswagen Group since 2015. According to various media reports, German officials arrested Stadler at his home early Monday morning on concerns he might suppress evidence relating to the scandal.
Stadler, Audi’s CEO since 2007 and a VW board member since 2010, is the highest ranking VW official to be arrested as part of the automaker’s efforts to conceal diesel emissions. Last month, the United States filed criminal charges against former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, who likely will not see the inside of U.S. courtroom because Germany does not have an extradition treaty with countries not in the European Union. Reuters reports a second board member, Bernd Martens, Audi’s head of purchasing, may also be a target of German officials.
The investigation in Germany is reported to be focused on as many as 20 people, two of which (not including Stadler) are currently being held in pre-trial detention.
Stadler is considered to be a key part of VW Group’s newly-installed CEO Herbert Diess’ plan to create a new structure in the automaker’s leadership as it shifts its focus from diesel to electric vehicles over the next few years. Diess himself is being investigated for possible stock manipulation in failing to alert shareholders the extent of the overall scandal.
Even though VW sales recovered quickly from the scandal, the automaker has budgeted nearly $32 billion to deal with the after effects as it continues to face legal actions in more than 50 countries.