Court activates "Plan B" in the diesel fraud process

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Court activates “Plan B” in the diesel fraud process

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A figure of the blind Justitia. Photo: Sonja Wurtscheid/dpa/Symbolbild

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How is a judge supposed to conduct proceedings when there are hardly any usable testimonies? The Diesel criminal trial in Braunschweig has been tough so far, mainly because of the great silence in the hall. Now the chamber has an idea to bring possible impetus to the matter.

The sluggish progress of the first major exhaust gas fraud process has led the Braunschweig Regional Court to resort to a rather unusual method: so that the pace finally increases, the chamber now wants to question public prosecutors instead of just other witnesses.

In this way, additional statements should be able to flow into the main hearing – probably in order to have enough material for the next steps. In the case of “Dieselgate”, the normally plentiful insights from the appearances of the witnesses in court are so sparse that the entire criminal proceedings have been paralyzed for months. On Thursday (9.30 a.m.) it should continue in the Braunschweig Stadthalle.

Most recently, there had been repeated postponements and cancellations of meetings – partly due to corona infections, but often also because of process participants who invoked their right to refuse to testify. A number of the witnesses called so far are themselves accused in follow-up proceedings to deal with the VW diesel affair.

It is their right that they do not have to burden themselves with answers to the chairman’s questions in the ongoing main hearing with four accused ex-executives that started last September. The judge Christian Schütz, who sometimes seemed a bit tense, considered how the impasse could be resolved.

One possible way: Long after the opening speeches by the public prosecutor’s office, let individual prosecutors report back from their own important witness interviews in order to indirectly gain an idea of ​​what happened around the origin of the diesel fraud that was exposed in 2015. According to the court, it has not yet been decided which interrogator will be questioned and when. This will now be discussed in more detail. If possible, the new approach should start at the next appointment.

It’s a tricky matter, and not just for the four men who are on trial in the first round of the trial for alleged commercial and gang-related fraud with millions of falsified exhaust gas values. The court also had to hear allegations. Schütz actually wanted to accelerate the process by separating the part of the proceedings against former VW boss Martin Winterkorn.

The ex-group leader is allowed to stay away from the main hearing thanks to a medical certificate after several hip surgeries. However, defense attorneys for the other four and prosecutors want to see Winterkorn in court, even if defendant number five then complicates the taking of evidence. But one way or another, it took a long time. The prosecutors also tried to subpoena Winterkorn. And 34 out of 38 key witnesses declined to testify.

“The topic had a certain shame limit” – this is how a development engineer put it in a nutshell on one of the last days of the trial at the end of April. The 59-year-old witness reported that, as far as he could remember, things like an exhaust gas deception program had never been discussed publicly – for example in the canteen. You could only hear a word or two in the corridors before or after meetings. In the case of the accused ex-managers and engineers, it has often been said that they were not aware of any illegal activity. Overall, the criminal court has scheduled appointments up to the summer of 2023.

dpa

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