FRANKFURT -- German prosecutors on Tuesday filed charges against six Volkswagen employees for their role in the automaker's emissions-cheating scandal.
Prosecutors in Brunswick, Germany, accused the unnamed employees of fraud and false advertising as well as tax evasion, since VW cars equipped with illegal emissions-cheating software should not have received road worthiness certification and tax breaks.
The employees worked at the automaker between 2006 and 2015 and were below management board level, prosecutor Klaus Ziehe said, adding it was unclear whether they are still employed at the automaker.
The accused were responsible for the fact that authorities and customers in Europe and the U.S. were deliberately misled with the aid of unauthorized software fitted in the VW Group vehicles, the prosecutors office said in a statement.
Three of the executives are accused of acting as perpetrators, while the other three are accused of aiding and abetting the cheating, the statement said. "The latter had in particular knowingly and willingly participated in the development, refinement and improvement of the manipulation software," prosecutors said in an 876-page indictment.
About 9 million diesel cars equipped with illegal software have been sold in Europe and the U.S. as a result, they said.
The widened investigation further undermines VW’s long-standing claim that the engine rigging was done by a small number of rogue engineers and top management wasn’t aware of the illicit conduct.
The scandal cost the world’s largest automaker about 30 billion euros ($33.4 billion) so far and legal proceedings from disgruntled investors and customers are poised to drag on for years.
Prosecutors in Brunswick in VW's home state of Lower Saxony have now charged 11 people and have ongoing investigations into another 32 people that have been identified as suspects. Prosecutors in Munich and Stuttgart are also looking into who knew about VW’s engine manipulation.
Volkswagen declined to comment.
Automotive News Europe and Bloomberg contributed to this report.