Rupert Stadler, Audi's chief executive, has been arrested in connection with an investigation into the diesel emissions scandal.
A spokesman for Audi owners, Volkswagen, confirmed his arrest on Monday after a judge remanded him into custody, a week after Munich prosecutors raided Stadler’s home. Stadler was charged with fraud and the falsification of documents that allowed diesel vehicles equipped with cheating software to be sold to European customers.
Munich prosecutors said they had acted swiftly because of "a risk that Mr Stadler might seek to suppress evidence".
The so-called 'Dieselgate' emissions scandal first exposed VW back in September 2015, subsequently affecting Audi too. Just last month Audi admitted that yet another 60,000 A6 and A7 diesel models have emission software issues over and above the 850,000 recalled last year – although not all of those 850,000 required modifications.
VW admitted that, in the United States, nearly 600,000 cars were sold with "defeat devices" fitted, designed to circumvent emissions tests. Worldwide, 11 million diesel vehicles had the software installed that could tell when they were being tested and immediately cut their emission output.
In fact, untested on the open road, the level of emissions would be far higher – up to 40 times higher than what would be recorded under laboratory conditions.
Audi has long faced suspicions that its engineers developed the software used in the scam and their former head of engine development was taken into custody in September 2017.
The scandal has so far cost the VW group more than 25 billion euros ($29 billion) in buybacks, fines and compensation, and the company remains mired in legal woes at home and abroad.