MUNICH -- Former Volkswagen Group executive Heinz-Jakob Neusser has been advised not to leave Germany because he risks being detained by U.S. authorities.
"I have urgently advised my client not to leave Germany. Only here is it safe," his lawyer, Annette Voges, told Germany's Bild newspaper in comments published on Saturday.
On Thursday, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the U.S. had issued international arrest warrants for five former VW managers who have been indicted for conspiracy to fraud and violation of U.S. environmental rules.
A sixth person, former VW manager Oliver Schmidt, was arrested in February in Miami as he was about to return from vacation to Germany.
Voges said the managers would likely have to continue to forgo foreign travel because they could not rely on a statue of limitations, which would exempt them from charges after a certain amount of time.
Under the constitution, German citizens can only be extradited to other European Union countries or to an international court. But leaving Germany could pose the risk of being extradited to the U.S. from a third country.
Neusser is a former VW head of engine development and a member of the VW brand's management board. He was the highest ranking of six executives indicted by the U.S. in January.
The others were Schmidt; Jens Hadler, former VW head of engine development; Richard Dorenkamp, who led a team of engineers that developed the first diesel engine designed to meet new U.S. emissions standards; former VW quality management boss Bernd Gottweis; and quality manager Juergen Peter.
Neusser appears to have perfected a "defeat" device used by Dorenkamp and Hadler to evade emissions tests, according to U.S. court documents.
A total of seven VW managers have been charged so far. U.S.-based engineer James Liang pleaded guilty in September and is cooperating with the authorities.
VW admitted to U.S. regulators in September 2015 that it had cheated on emissions tests there using software installed in as many as 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide.
Reuters contributed to this report