MUNICH, Germany - Widening the emissions cheating probe into the Volkswagen Group on Monday, German prosecutors said that they had added the CEO of Volkswagen's luxury carmaker Audi among the suspects.
Prosecutors said in a statement that Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler was now officially under investigation and that he was one among the suspects accused of fraud and false advertising.
They added that as part of their investigation, police raided the apartment of Stadler and one other board member.
The announced by Munich’s public prosecutor comes three years after Volkswagen admitted to falsifying U.S. diesel emissions tests.
Revealing that its emissions investigation into the Volkswagen Group now covers 20 suspects, The Munich prosecutor’s office said in a statement, "Since May 30, 2018 the chairman of the board of Audi AG Rupert Stadler as well as a further member of the management board are now named suspects.”
Responding to the statement, Audi said it was fully cooperating with prosecutors.
Prosecutors meanwhile revealed that the two suspects were being investigated for suspected fraud and false advertising and for their alleged role in helping to bring cars equipped with illegal software on to the European market.
Stadler, who worked as an assistant to ex-Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piech, who is part of the Porsche family that owns a controlling stake in the Volkswagen Group, was appointed as Audi CEO in 2007.
In 2015, two months after Volkswagen admitted to cheating on the U.S. diesel emissions tests, Audi admitted to using cheating software too.
In November 2015, the brand, which is the biggest contributor to Volkswagen's profit, admitted that its 3.0 liter V6 diesel engines were fitted with a device deemed illegal in the U.S. that allowed cars to evade emissions limits.
Since then, Stadler has been under fire but has received backing from members of the Porsche and Piech families.
However, in March this year, prosecutors raided Audi to investigate who was involved in the use of any illicit software deployed in 80,000 VW, Audi and Porsche cars in the United States.
The same month, Audi's 20-strong supervisory board recommended that shareholders endorse Stadler as chief executive.
He was appointed head of sales for the Volkswagen Group when new CEO Herbert Diess made some structural changes to management.
On Monday, following the move by prosecutors, Stadler become the highest-ranking active official in the probe that is now focusing on upper management.
Reports quoting a person familiar with the probe as revealing that the second suspect is Audi's head of purchasing, Bernd Martens, who led a diesel task force at Audi.