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Home>German Police Arrest Volkswagen's Former Engine Chief in Emissions Scandal

German Police Arrest Volkswagen's Former Engine Chief in Emissions Scandal

German Police Arrest Volkswagen's Former Engine Chief in Emissions Scandal

09/29/2017

 By William Boston 

BERLIN -- The investigation into Volkswagen AG's emissions-cheating scandal took a dramatic turn Thursday, when the former engine chief of the auto maker was arrested in connection with its rigging of diesel-powered cars to dupe regulators, a person familiar with the situation said.

Wolfgang Hatz was arrested on Wednesday and arraigned before a judge in Munich on Thursday, after which he was held in pretrial detention, the person said. It wasn't immediately clear whether Mr. Hatz would be released on bail.

The arrest is significant because Mr. Hatz oversaw engine development at the time Volkswagen engineers devised a plan to install illegal software on some diesel engines to make them appear as though they could meet strict restrictions on tailpipe emissions in the U.S.

Mr. Hatz, the most senior executive to be arrested in the investigation, was also a confidant of Martin Winterkorn, the former chief executive of Volkwagen who resigned days after the scandal was made public. Mr. Winterkorn has denied any knowledge of the use of illegal engine software to game emissions tests.

A motor-racing enthusiast, Mr. Hatz joined Volkswagen in 2001 and spent much of his career in engine development, with earlier stints at BMW, Opel and Fiat. He ran Audi's engine-development program from 2001 to 2007, when he also served as Volkswagen's engine chief.

In 2011, he was made a board member at Porsche AG, Volkswagen's sports-car maker, in charge of research and development. At Porsche, he was instrumental in developing the engine with which Porsche won the 24-hour Le Mans race in 2015. He also played a key role in developing Porsche's first electric sports car, the "Mission E," meant to rival Tesla cars when it is launched in 2019.

German authorities wouldn't identify Mr. Hatz by name, citing the country's privacy laws. They would only confirm that a person had been arrested on Wednesday in connection with an investigation into the role of Audi, Volkswagen's luxury-car unit, in the emissions-cheating scandal.

That person, they said, appeared in court on Thursday where a judge read out the charges of fraud and illegal advertising.

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