COURT BATTLE: Former Porsche CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking, arrives at a regional court in Stuttgart, Germany. Image: AP / Bernd Weissbrod
Stuttgart, Germany - Porsche's former chief executive denied manipulating Volkswagen shares during a failed takeover of VW in 2008 in a trial that revives an earlier scandal at the automaker battling an emissions-cheating saga.
German prosecutors accuse Wendelin Wiedeking of pursuing plans for the sports car manufacturer to take over much larger VW while making public statements to the contrary. His former finance chief Holger Haerter also faces the same charges.
Porsche SE's former top managers could face a sentence of up to five years in prison if they are found guilty of breaching securities trading laws, which is a criminal offence.
'I am innocent'
Wiedeking said on Thursday, the opening day of a case being heard in the regional court in Stuttgart where Porsche is based: "I will fight the accusations raised against me with vigour. I am innocent."
Wiedeking and Haerter, who also denies wrongdoing, are the two highest-ranking German auto executives to go on trial.
Porsche SE, a publicly traded holding company that owns 52.2% of VW ordinary shares, is the biggest shareholder in VW, Europe's largest automaker.
VW admitted last month it used illegal software to rig emissions tests on diesel vehicles in the United States, sparking the biggest business crisis in its history.
Wiedeking hit back at Ferdinand Piech, the Porsche family patriarch and chairman of Volkswagen at the time, who was behind the dismissal of Wiedeking as Porsche CEO in 2009.
Wiedeking told the court: "Ferdinand Piech once let himself be quoted as saying that he 'would not allow his life's work at VW and Audi to be ruined by a hired manager'.
"The prosecutor seriously thinks it's possible that I would have conspired with Ferdinand Piech despite his public stance to secretly take over VW, to manipulate board and supervisory board protocols and to systematically deceive the capital market!" he said.
"This presumed closeness to Piece really hurts me."
After months of denying any plans to acquire VW, Porsche disclosed in October 2008 that its options gave it control of almost three quarters of VW, sending the automaker's shares higher and forcing short-sellers to race to buy back stock they had borrowed on the assumption that VW shares would drop.
The historic short squeeze pushed VW shares to over 1000 euros each within days, briefly making the Wolfsburg-based automaker the world's most valuable company and triggering accusations of market manipulation.
Wiedeking said in written remarks distributed by his law firm: "We did not conceal the hedging operations. Every investor who was familiar with publications of Porsche and the press knew that besides stake purchases we also conducted hedging operations."
Hearings have been scheduled in the case until the end of February 2016.