Ex-lover of key figure in VW scandal faces trial

March 15, 2012

BERLIN (AP) — The Brazilian one-time girlfriend of the ex-head of Volkswagen AG's employee council is to go on trial later this month over her alleged part in a corruption scandal at the automaker, a German court said Thursday.

The trial of the 47-year-old will open in Wolfsburg on March 27 and is scheduled to continue through early May, the state court in nearby Braunschweig said. It did not identify the woman.

She is charged with 26 counts of being an accessory to breach of trust. Prosecutors contend that she received payments totaling euro250,000 ($326,500) at VW's expense between 2002 and 2004 for providing nonexistent services, and that she knew she wasn't entitled to them.

Between 2002 and 2005, they say she also had purely private expenses for flights, hotel stays and language courses totaling euro100,000 paid by the company.

The powerful former employee council boss, Klaus Volkert, is alleged to have provided bogus bills for services to secure payments from VW for his Brazilian girlfriend.

Volkert was a key figure in the scandal over allegations that employee representatives received illegal privileges, including lavish foreign trips involving prostitutes paid for by the company.

Investigations started after Volkswagen alerted prosecutors to possible wrongdoing.

Volkert was convicted in 2008 of inciting and being an accessory to breach of trust against VW, and given a prison sentence of two years and nine months.

Judges ruled that Volkert knew he had no right to "special bonuses" worth euro1.9 million. Former VW personnel chief Peter Hartz was convicted in 2007 of breach of trust and given a suspended two-year sentence after admitting that he awarded the bonuses in an effort to curry favor.

Employee councils are influential in Germany, where employee representatives generally make up half of companies' supervisory boards.