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Former Audi boss avoids jail after pleading guilty to fraud over emissions scandal

Rupert Stadler, former CEO of German car manufacturer Audi, sits in a regional court room and waits for the verdict in Munich.
Rupert Stadler, former CEO of German car manufacturer Audi, sits in a regional court room and waits for the verdict in Munich. Copyright AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, Pool
Copyright AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, Pool
By AP, AFP
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Rupert Stadler is the highest-ranking executive to be convicted over cars that cheated on emissions tests

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A German court has found ex-Audi boss Rupert Stadler guilty of fraud in connection with the automaker's diesel emissions scandal.

It makes him the highest-ranking executive convicted over cars that cheated on emissions tests with the help of illegal software.

The Munich regional court handed Stadler a suspended prison sentence of 21 months and ordered him to pay a €1.1 million fine as part of an agreement between his lawyers, the judge and prosecutors after he pleaded guilty last month.

The former head of Volkswagen’s luxury division admitted wrongdoing and regret his failure to keep rigged cars off the market even after the scandal had become public knowledge.

The 60-year-old former executive had disputed the charges from the start of the investigation and throughout the hearings that began in September 2020.

However, in May he agreed to admit his guilt, at the court's suggestion, in order to receive a lighter sentence than a possible ten years in prison.

Three lower-ranking managers also took plea deals in the two and a half year-long trial in Munich.

Stadler had been charged with fraud and false certification by prosecutors who said he let cars with rigged software be sold even after the scheme was uncovered by the US Environmental Protection Agency in September 2015.

Following the EPA accusations, Volkswagen admitted to fitting 11 million "EA 189" engines in its diesel vehicles with software capable of making them appear less polluting in laboratory and road tests.

The scandal cost Volkswagen more than $30 billion in fines and settlements and saw two US executives sent to prison.

It pushed the entire auto industry away from reliance on diesel engines, which had been almost half the auto market in Europe, and helped accelerate the shift to electric vehicles.

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