VW's acknowledgement in September 2015 that it had used software
to manipulate emissions erased billions of euros from its market
value, forced Winterkorn's resignation and sparked
investigations and lawsuits across the world.
VW has said its executive board did not learn of the software
violations until late August 2015 and formally reported the
cheating to U.S. authorities in early September that year, and
Winterkorn dismissed last week recurring reports that he knew
about the cheating sooner.
Prosecutors in Braunschweig near Volkswagen's (VW) Wolfsburg
base said on Friday they had searched 28 homes and offices in
connection with their investigation this week and had increased
the number of people accused in connection with the emissions
scandal to 37 from 21, including Winterkorn.
"Sufficient indications have resulted from the investigation,
particularly the questioning of witnesses and suspects as well
as the analysis of seized data, that the accused (Winterkorn)
may have known about the manipulating software and its effects
sooner than he has said publicly," they said in a statement.
Winterkorn and VW brand chief Herbert Diess have already been
subject of an investigation by Braunschweig prosecutors over
suspicions of possible market manipulation. Prosecutors are now
also probing the former CEO on suspicion of fraud.
The widening of the investigation will add to the carmaker's
legal headaches and be grist to the mill of investors seeking
8.8 billion euros ($9.41 billion) in damage claims for the
collapse of VW's share price after the scandal broke.
Winterkorn denied any wrongdoing when he quit on Sept. 23, 2015
but said he was clearing the way for a fresh start at VW with
his resignation. Winterkorn ran the German group for more than
(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Editing by Maria Sheahan)
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