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Volkswagen inquiry widens to include former finance chief

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Hans Dieter Ptsch will fully support prosecutors investigation into alleged market manipulation, carmaker says

German prosecutors have deepened the crisis at Volkswagen by widening an investigation into suspected market manipulation to include the chair of the carmakers supervisory board, Hans Dieter Ptsch.

The investigation relates to accusations that VWs management withheld information about the companys emissions scandal from shareholders. In September 2015 it had emerged that VW had installed software to deactivate pollution controls on more than 11m diesel vehicles sold worldwide.

Following a complaint by financial watchdog BaFin, prosecutors are already investigating the former VW boss Martin Winterkorn and brand chief Herbert Diess. Ptsch was the Wolfsburg-based carmakers finance chief between 2003 and 2015, during which he played a key role in communicating the companys outlook to investors.

The 65-year-old Austrian moved from the companys management to its advisory board in October 2015, shortly after the emissions scandal erupted. According to German weekly Der Spiegel, Ptschs move earned him a bonus of almost 20m (17.8m) a reward that was calculated on the basis of VWs pre-crisis performance.

If allegations are proven to be true, Ptsch could potentially face a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Several VW investors have taken legal action to claim compensation for the losses they have made as a result of the emissions scandal. The regional court in Braunschweig has collected 1,400 complaints, pointing to a damages total of about 8bn.

A spokesperson for the carmaker, which employs approximately 600,000 people worldwide, said the company would fully cooperate in the state prosecutors investigation.

Based on a thorough examination by internal and external legal experts, the company reaffirms its belief that VWs management fulfilled its duties to inform the capital market, VW said on Sunday.

VW said the company and Ptsch, who became chairman in October 2015, would fully support the prosecutors office in its investigation.

VW is controlled by the Porsche and Pich families through their holding company Porsche SE. Wolfgang Porsche released a statement on Sunday stating that the two families stood with unqualified support behind Ptsch and believed the management had acted in accordance with the law throughout.

Stephan Weil, the state premier of Lower Saxony who shares a seat on the carmakers supervisory board with Ptsch, declined to comment out of respect to the ongoing investigation.

Adding to the companys woes on Sunday, German media reported that a US regulator had found another cheat device aimed at lowering carbon dioxide emissions in cars made by VWs Audi subsidiary.

Bild am Sonntag said the software lowered carbon dioxide emissions by detecting whether a cars steering wheel was turned as it would be if it was driving on a road. If the steering wheel was not turned, as if it was being tested in a laboratory, the software activated a gear-shifting programme that produced less carbon dioxide, allowing the car to meet the emissions criteria.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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