The corruption trial has started of Volkswagen’s former head of personnel Peter Hartz. As he arrived at the court in Braunschweig, Germany, protesters shouted slogans condemning Germany’s job benefit reform programme which Hartz designed.
The 65-year-old is charged with 44 counts of breach of trust, including alleged payments of nearly two million euros to the former head of the company’s powerful employee council in exchange for votes favourable to VW’s management. In Germany, union representatives sit on company’s boards and major new initiatives have to be approved by them.
This is the first in a number of prosecutions against former VW employees in connection with the scandal that allegedly involved the carmaker paying for holiday trips, visits to brothels and sex parties to influence employee council members. In 2002 Hartz was a close adviser to then Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder over controversial sweeping reforms to Germany’s jobless benefit system. Hartz has confessed and so could get a suspended sentence and fine under a plea bargain arrangement.