German prosecutors probing former VW CEO for fraud

Prosecutors from the German region of Braunschweig said they had searched 28 homes and offices this week in connection with the scandal.

The prosecutor's office also said the number of people being investigated in this fraud case had increased from 21 to 37.

Prosecutors say the indication that Winterkorn may have known about the cheating sooner than he has said publicly was based partly on the questioning of witnesses and suspects, as well as evaluation of seized data. In a June statement, prosecutors said Winterkorn was being investigated only for market manipulation for not making a timely disclosure of the possible financial consequences of the problem.

USA regulators revealed in September 2015 that some of the company's diesel engines carried software created to cheat on emissions tests.

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In his first public appearance since being forced to resign 16 months ago, Winterkorn told lawmakers in Berlin last week that he first heard the phrase "defeat device", the term for the test-manipulating software, shortly before the scandal came to light. The other five remain in Germany, prosecutors have said.

VW early past year appeared to acknowledge that details of the emissions dispute were included in a May 2014 memo distributed to Winterkorn.

The latest investigation will add to the carmaker's legal headaches and encourage investors seeking 8.8 billion euros ($9.4 billion) in damage claims in Germany for the collapse of VW's share price after the scandal broke.

"Among them is the former CEO of Volkswagen AG Martin Winterkorn".

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Winterkorn, who resigned days after the scandal erupted in September 2015 had said he couldn't understand why he was made aware of "Dieselgate" and would've prevented any type of deception or misleading of authorities.

As part of a $4.3 billion settlement with US regulators, the German automaker has agreed to sweeping reforms, new audits and oversight by an independent monitor for three years to resolve diesel emissions cheating investigations. Winterkorn ran the German group for more than eight years, ending his time as Germany's highest-paid CEO.

Much of the scandal relates to "the old system at VW" under Winterkorn, Dudenhoeffer said.

Europe's largest automaker took a major step this month towards ending its biggest-ever corporate crisis when it agreed to plead guilty in a $4.3 billion deal with the U.S. Justice Department.

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