Volkswagen's former personnel chief is due to go on trial later on Wednesday in a corruption case centring on allegations of illegal payments.
Peter Hartz is accused of showering key union officials at the carmaker with cash and other perks such as holidays. A one-time advisor to former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Hartz faces 44 charges of breach of trust. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison, or fines. Hartz has yet to comment on the charges. He was initially also accused of using company funds to pay for prostitutes, but prosecutors have dropped that charge. The opinion of union leaders is important to German firms because under German law, union bosses sit on a company's board of directors, and must be consulted on major new initiatives.
One of the charges against Hartz, who stood down from VW in 2005, alleges that he awarded illegal bonuses to Klaus Volkert, the former head of VW's powerful employee council. Volkert was arrested in November, but he was subsequently released in December and no formal charges have been brought against him. The other main person so far charged in relation to the case is Hans-Juergen Uhl, now an MP for the centre-left Social Democrats. A former member of VW's works council, he has been charged with two counts of being an accessory to breach of trust, and five counts of making false statements while under oath. Although federal lawmakers have voted to lift his parliamentary immunity so he can be prosecuted, he currently remains in parliament and has denied any wrongdoing. (BBC NEWS)