The more you learn about the VW scandal (which involves everything from bribes and prostitutes to bogus bonuses and Brazilian mistresses) the more amazing it sounds. Yet the whole thing supposedly came grinding to a halt last week when Klaus Volkert, previously head of the VW works council, was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail on charges of “incitement to fraud.”
In reality it was shown that Herr Volkert had obtained two million euros of bonuses to finance his Brazilian mistress, thanks to a secret slush fund run by VW. But the real question is; how high up within the company did knowledge of the slush fund actually go. Who knew about it and who didn’t?
On January 9 this year even Ferdinand Piech himself was questioned under oath and denied categorically that he knew anything about the fund. Yet it’s equally obvious that if Piech himself knew nothing about the fund, there were people around him who did.
Herr Volkert may be the only candidate who’s being sent to jail over the scandal, but there are at least four other once high-up VW employees that were involved.
In June 2005 VW began legal action against Helmuth Schuster (then head of personnel at Skoda) alleging that he had taken bribes.
In July the same year VW’s head of human resources, Peter Hartz, resigned after the discovery of various brothel bills. He was given a suspended sentence for breach of trust in 2007, having co-operated with the prosecution. And in June 2007 Hans-Jurgen Uhl was fined for perjury, having sworn under oath that he hadn’t been to a brothel that was sponsored by the VW slush fund, while the manager of the fund itself – Klaus Joachim Gebauer – was suspended for one year on the same day that Volkert got two years and nine months.
Despite the fact that both Volkert and Gebauer have said they will appeal their sentences, something tells me that the real damage has already been done. Like I say, the more you learn about this particularly grubby scandal, the more incredible it becomes.