MUNICH -- Three former Audi board members and a retired engineer are the latest ex-employees from the automaker indicted in Germany in relation to the Volkswagen Group diesel scandal, press reports said.
The executives are Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi's former development boss; Stefan Knirsch, also a former development boss at the automaker; Bernd Martens, Audi's ex-head of purchasing; and retired engine developer Richard Bauder, according to a report in the Heilbronner Stimme daily newspaper, which cited people close to the proceedings. The German business daily Handelsblatt also named the executives.
The four are accused of fraud, false certification and criminal advertising, the Munich prosecutor's office said in a statement on Aug. 6, without naming the executives.
The indictment relates to a total 434,420 vehicles from the Audi, VW and Porsche brands that were mostly sold in the U.S. and Europe, it said.
The four executives are accused of having prompted the development of engines that included an illegal software function that made them produce lower emissions when operating during testing than when in regular driving conditions.
The prosecution asserts that the accused former board members knew of the practice at various times between October 2013 and September 2015 and still carried on with sales, or did not prevent them from happening.
In addition, one of the former board members is accused of having known but kept silent about his involvement in the practices ahead of his board membership from 2016, thus fraudulently earning board member pay.
Audi engineers created so-called defeat devices that cut emissions in 1999, years before VW used them to cheat emissions tests, Handelsblatt reported after the diesel scandal broke.
The scandal shook Audi to its core and has led to most of its former top management now facing prosecution.
Hackenberg left Audi in 2015 after 30 years with VW Group. He was replaced by Knirsch, then Audi's head of engine development. Knirsch was forced to quit in 2016 after German media reports said he knew about the use of defeat device software and gave a false promise under oath. The reports cited investigations by the U.S. law firm Jones Day.
Martens, who led a task force at Audi to coordinate the handling of the diesel crisis, stepped down in November 2019 in a leadership shakeup ahead of new CEO Markus Duesmann's arrival.
Bauder, who was called the father of Audi's TDI technology in the automotive press, retired in 2012 before the diesel scandal broke. He was a top diesel expert at Audi for more than 30 years.
The four executives join former Audi CEO Rupert Stadler in facing charges over their roles in the scandal after parent VW Group and Audi admitted in 2015 to having used illegal software to cheat U.S. diesel emissions tests.
VW Group's former top engineer, Wolfgang Hatz, who was Audi's head engine developer from 2001 until 2007, is also awaiting trial.