The chief executive of Audi has been detained by German authorities investigating the “dieselgate” scandal at parent firm Volkswagen.
Prosecutors in Munich said Rupert Stadler – the most senior group official to be held since the emissions saga began almost three years ago – was arrested at home in the early hours due to fears he might obstruct their continuing investigation.
He was later remanded in custody by a judge, they said.
Audi responded by insisting there was a presumption of innocence in the allegation against Mr Stadler, who has led the Audi division since 2007.
Image: Mr Stadler is a German national who has held senior positions within VW since 1997
It is understood the VW group’s supervisory board will meet later in the day to discuss the development while VW shares were trading almost 3% lower.
The emissions scandal dates back to September 2015, when VW admitted using illegal software to cheat US emissions tests on diesel engines.
It later admitted so-called defeat devices were fitted to more than 11 million of the group’s cars worldwide, including 1.2 million in the UK.
:: VW fined €1.2bn by Germany for emissions scandal
The fallout has cost VW more than $30bn to date – the bulk of that sum in the US where, in May, prosecutors filed criminal charges against former VW boss Martin Winterkorn.
Image: Martin Winterkorn quit as chief executive of the VW group shortly after the diesel emissions scandal came to light
But he is unlikely to face any trial there because Germany blocks extradition requests to countries outside the EU.
The focus of the dieselgate scandal has since fallen on Germany, where the authorities are conducting a number of investigations which include alleged fraud at VW.
Daimler, which owns the Mercedes brand, became the latest manufacturer to face scrutiny last week when Germany’s transport ministry ordered the recall of hundreds of thousands of vehicles over diesel emissions software.
The outrage over testing has not been limited to cars.
It emerged in January that an agency – funded by VW, Daimler and BMW – had carried out tests on monkeys in 2014 in an attempt to demonstrate diesel engine emissions were not as harmful to health as campaigners claim.
Dr Thomas Steg, a public relations chief at VW, later took full responsibility for the tests.
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VW has since moved away from a focus on diesel technology towards electric vehicles – a focus expected to be driven hard by new VW group boss Herbert Diess.
His plans include changes to the company’s wider leadership structure.