* Stuttgart prosecution charges ex-CEO and ex-CFO
* Says executives made false public statements on VW
* Says decision to hike VW stake already made in Feb. 2008
* Lawyers of ex-CEO say charges will not be successful
(Adds lawyer's statement)
STUTTGART, Germany, Dec 19 German prosecutors
have charged former Porsche SE Chief Executive
Wendelin Wiedeking and his former finance chief with market
manipulation related to the purchase of Volkswagen
The prosecutor's office in Stuttgart, where Porsche is
based, said on Wednesday the executives made false public
statements during the sportscar maker's botched 2008-09 takeover
The defendants' lawyers denied any wrongdoing by their
Wiedeking, hailed as "the man who outfoxed the market" by
Fortune Magazine in January 2009, and Holger Haerter could face
a sentence of up to five years if they are found guilty of
breaching securities trading laws, a criminal offence,
prosecutors have said in the past.
Investors have said Porsche's former top management had been
pursuing plans to take over much larger carmaker VW while making
public statements to the contrary.
In March 2008, Porsche dismissed as "speculation" media
reports it intended to take over VW, which builds more cars in a
week than Porsche does in a year.
Seven months later, Porsche disclosed it had options giving
it control of almost three quarters of VW, sending its shares
higher and forcing short-sellers to race to buy back stock they
had borrowed betting that VW shares would drop.
MOST VALUABLE COMPANY
The historic short squeeze pushed VW shares above 1,000
euros ($1,300) each within days, briefly making the Wolfsburg,
Germany-based carmaker the world's most valuable company and
triggering accusations of market manipulation.
"The investigation has shown that the defendants decided in
February 2008, at the latest, to increase Porsche's holding in
Volkswagen AG to 75 percent of voting capital in the first
quarter of 2009," the prosecutor's office said on Wednesday.
The defendants' lawyers said Wiedeking's and Haerter's
statements about Porsche's plans for VW were "correct in
content" and had not had any impact on VW's share price.
"Without an impact on the share price there is no
punishability," they said in a statement.
The prosecutors expect a trial against Wiedeking and Haerter
to begin in February or March. They said on Wednesday they have
dropped a separate investigation into whether the two managers
committed a breach of trust.
Wiedeking's risky manoeuvres to take over Volkswagen
backfired and pushed Porsche SE near bankruptcy.
Instead of taking over Volkswagen, Porsche ended up seeing
its sports car business folded into the empire of Europe's
($1 = 0.7568 euros)
(Reporting by Hendrik Sackmann and Maria Sheahan; Editing by
Dan Lalor and David Cowell)