A German court ruled former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn must stand trial on fraud charges in connection with the company's 'dieselgate' diesel emission scandal in which it sold cars with software that let them cheat on emissions tests, ABC News and other media outlets have reported.

A three judge panel in Braunschweig, in the automaker's home region of Lower Saxony, ruled car buyers suffered a financial loss when they bought a vehicle without being aware it was equipped with illegal software. The court found a "predominant likelihood" of conviction in the fraud charge, ABC News said.

According to the report, the court said four other defendants would face trial on charges of fraud in connection with aggravated tax evasion and illegal advertising. Dates for a public trial are to be set later.

The report noted Winterkorn, who denied wrongdoing, resigned from VW days after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a notice of violation on 18 September, 2015.

The company had for years been using software that could tell when vehicles were on test rigs and turned emission controls on but turned them off during normal driving. As a result, the cars emitted far more than the legal US limit of nitrogen oxide.

ABC noted Winterkorn also faces criminal charges in the US but cannot be extradited [as Germany has no extradition deal with the US]. Volkswagen has paid over EUR30bn (US$33bn) in fines and settlements over the scandal, including setting up the Electrify America EV charging network.

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The report added, however, the three judge panel did not accept all accusations levelled by prosecutors when they first charged Winterkorn in April 2019.

The court said in a news release it did not approve charges of unfair competition related to advertising in the US. The court also announced a preliminary finding which rejected prosecutors' claim defendants should repay their bonuses, saying the company, not they, were the financial beneficiaries of the misconduct, ABC News added.