Former Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn has been charged over the group's emissions cheating scandal. Four other executives have also been charged. \Winterkorn resigned when the scandal broke.
Among the accusations against the former chief executive are "a particularly serious case of fraud", "infraction of the law against unfair competition" and "breach of trust".
Winterkorn was CEO during a period when VW fitted 11 million diesel-powered vehicles worldwide with so-called "defeat devices" - software that made them appear less polluting in the lab than in real driving conditions.
Prosecutors say that in his role as "guarantor" to authorities and customers that the group was not selling cheating vehicles, Winterkorn failed to reveal the fraud immediately after he learned of it as early as May 2014, or to prevent the sale of infringing vehicles.
Such allegations have hit other German manufacturers since, with Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler confirming Sunday it was facing a regulatory probe, reportedly over 60,000 vehicles.
At the helm from 2007 to 2015, Winterkorn, a trained engineer, had a reputation as a detail-obsessed executive who was familiar with "every screw" of each VW model.
The group admitted to the fraud in September 2015, beginning a drawn-out process of fact-finding and legal action that has so far seen it pay out US$33 billion in fines, compensation and buyback schemes, much of it in the United States. (AFP)