BERLIN -- German prosecutors searched the homes of three new suspects in connection with Audi's emissions scandal on Thursday, further widening their inquiry into the automaker's test-cheating scandal to include former executives.
Two of the three individuals affected by Thursday's searches are former members of Audi's management board, Munich prosecutors said without disclosing names.
The homes of former development heads Ulrich Hackenberg and Stefan Knirsch, both ex-management board members, have been raided, Wirtschaftswoche reported without saying where it got the information. Lawyers for both weren't immediately available for comment. Audi spokesman Juergen de Graeve said he couldn't immediately comment, reiterating that the company is continuing to fully cooperate with the authorities.
Hackenberg left the Volkswagen brand in 2015. He was a close confidant of former Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn -- himself a former Audi board member in charge of development -- who was forced out days after the scandal erupted. Hackenberg's successor Knirsch had to step down after just 10 months in 2016, also in connection with the diesel manipulation
Current Audi executives are still not among the suspects, the number of which has risen to 17, prosecutors said. The new suspects were considered to be partly responsible for the emissions trickery, prosecutors said.
Thursday's searches show that the VW Group, which owns Audi, cannot seem to catch a break from its diesel-rigging crisis.
Audi, VW Group's main profit contributor, did not admit to using illicit emissions control devices in the United States until November 2015, two months after the scandal at VW was revealed.
Audi developed 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engines used in about 80,000 VW, Audi and Porsche models that in 2015 were found to be equipped with illicit software and to exceed U.S. emissions limits.
German prosecutors searched the homes of several current and former Audi employees in January in connection with the automaker's involvement in diesel-emissions cheating. This was followed last month by a search of Audi's headquarters and its car plant in Neckarsulm, Germany.
Bloomberg contributed to this report