The prosecution in Braunschweig announced on Monday that Winterkorn was one of five people charged in a case involving the scam industry scandal.
Winterkorn was accused, according to a statement by the prosecutor of a particularly serious fraud. The indictment will be punished with a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.
The former CEO has also been charged with embezzlement and violation of competition law. You could order him to repay the bonuses he received as a reward for the sale.
Winterkorn lawyer Felix Dörr said he could only comment on the charges if he read the full indictment.
The public prosecutor's office claimed to have filed the indictment and 75,000 pages of additional evidence before a court in Braunschweig, which will decide whether Winterkorn is in court.
Another 36 people are still under investigation.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission also announced last month that it is suing Volkswagen and Winterkorn, accusing them of having "committed a massive fraud."
The market authority said Volkswagen and Winterkorn fraudulently borrowed billions of dollars from investors, including through the company's excessive environmental impact.
In Germany, sales of Volkswagen diesel cars recovered. Around 43% of all Volkswagen automobiles sold in Germany last year were diesel deliveries. This was close to their share before the scandal of 49%.
Chris Liakos and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this article.