HAMBURG (Reuters) - The trial of former Volkswagen Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn on charges of conspiracy to commit organised commercial fraud looks set to be delayed, a court probing the carmaker's diesel emissions scandal said on Wednesday.
The case of the 74-year-old Winterkorn -- whom a German magazine report said needs a hip operation -- could be split off from four other Volkswagen executives who also face charges for their role in allowing diesel cars with illegal emissions-masking software to hit the road.
If Winterkorn is not able to take part in the planned start of the trial on Sept. 16 due to health issues then proceedings against the other four will start without him, a court spokesperson said, although no final decision has been taken.
The scandal, which was uncovered by U.S. authorities in 2015, has cost Volkswagen more than 30 billion euros ($35 billion) in refits, legal fees and settlements, and resulted in a drastic management and strategy overhaul.
A lawyer for Winterkorn has said his client denied the charges.
The trial had been due to start in February but has been repeatedly delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Manager Magazine, which first reported on the delay, Winterkorn needs a hip operation, which would mean he would only be well enough for a trial by the middle of 2022.
However, if the court waits for the completion of the trial against the other four executives, then the main proceedings against Winterkorn might only start in the second half of 2023.
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(Reporting by Jan Schwartz, writing by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)