The former chief executive is already under indictment in the United States but is highly unlikely to face trial.
Former Volkswagen chief Martin Winterkorn on Monday became the target of German charges over the group's "dieselgate" emissions cheating scandal, bringing the affair back into headlines as VW battles to turn eyes to its future.
Experts say it is unlikely that Winterkorn will ever step inside the U.S. courtroom as Germany doesn't extradite its citizens.
The alleged offences of Winterkorn and the other unnamed managers took place between November 2006 and September 2015, according to prosecutors in Braunschweig, near VW's global headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.
VW has admitted installing software in its diesel cars that turned on pollution controls when vehicles were being tested and switched them off during everyday driving.
The public prosecutor in Braunschweig charged Martin Winterkorn and four other managers with fraud.
Winterkorn's attorney, Felix Doerr, said that the defence could not comment because prosecutors had not provided adequate opportunity to review the case files.
They face between six months and 10 years in prison if found guilty.
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The prosecutors' move is only one of the legal proceedings unleashed by the scandal.
Dieselgate has so far cost the Volkswagen Group at least €29 billion in fines and penalties, with even more lawsuits waiting in the wings.
Winterkorn failed to disclose the illegal manipulation to the responsible authorities in Europe and the US and to customers.
Prosecutors are continuing to investigate 36 more defendants and have yet to decide whether to charge them. It did not give the names of the other four or say whether they were still employed by Volkswagen.
The auto industry as a whole has come under pressure in Germany and Europe to reduce emissions harmful to human health as well as those contributing to climate change.
Volkswagen's current chief executive Herbert Diess, who only joined the carmaker in July 2015 and became CEO a year ago, said he was not among those charged.
VW said it would not comment because the company was not a party to the proceedings.