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German MPs to grill former VW boss over 'dieselgate'

© AFP/File | Martin Winterkorn, pictured in 2014, will appear before a special parliamentary committee looking into the "dieselgate" scandal

FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) - 

Disgraced former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn will face a grilling by German MPs next week, a lawmaker said Wednesday, amid fresh accusations that top executives colluded in covering up the auto giant's emissions cheating practices.

Winterkorn will appear before a special parliamentary committee looking into the "dieselgate" scandal on January 19, lawmaker Herbert Behrens said.

The former CEO's testimony will be "particularly important" in light of the latest allegations against the VW group, Behrens said in a statement.

Winterkorn resigned in September 2015, days after the VW group admitted it had installed software in 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide to dupe emissions tests and make the cars seem less polluting than they were.

US investigators have turned up the heat on Volkswagen in recent days, revealing that they believe VW top brass knew of the cheating as far back as July 2015.

They also arrested VW executive Oliver Schmidt, formerly responsible for US compliance issues, and charged him with fraud and conspiracy over the dieselgate controversy.

"The arrest of a VW manager and his declarations to the FBI are directly relevant to the work of the parliamentary committee," Behrens said, adding that it was essential to establish "when the VW board was informed" of the cheating.

The committee is also trying to determine whether government officials knew about the scandal before it became public knowledge.

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has already appeared before the panel, while Chancellor Angela Merkel is to be questioned on March 8.

Separately, German investigators are probing whether Winterkorn, former finance director Hans Dieter Poetsch -- now supervisory board chairman -- and VW brand chief Herbert Diess deliberately held back information from investors when the scandal broke.

© 2017 AFP