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Emissions scandal: Volkswagen executive sentenced to seven years in prison

Schmidt was fined $400,000. He knew Volkswagen's vehicles weren't compliant with US emissions standards

Margaret Cronin Fisk & Steven Raphael | Bloomberg 

Oliver Schmidt
Oliver Schmidt

A AG compliance executive who pleaded guilty in the US for his role in the company’s $30 billion emissions was sentenced to 7 years in prison.

(pictured), VW’s compliance liaison with American regulators, pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to defraud the US and another of violating the Federal prosecutors sought the maximum of seven years, while Schmidt asked US District Judge Sean Cox to limit his sentence to 40 months, saying he’d been coached to lie about emissions by his bosses. “I only have myself to blame,” Schmidt said before Cox handed down the sentence. He admitted that he tried to conceal VW’s cheating. “I accept the punishment.”

Cox sentenced Schmidt to 60 months for the first count and 24 months for the second count, to run consecutively. Schmidt was fined $400,000. Schmidt knew VW’s vehicles weren’t compliant with US emissions standards, Cox told the defendant.

“In my opinion, you were a key conspirator, responsible for the cover-up in the United States,’’ the judge said. Schmidt worked with to conceal the fraud, using it as an “opportunity to shine, and climb the corporate ladder,’’ Cox added. “This is a very serious, troubling offense.’’

has already incurred about $30 billion in costs following its September 2015 admission that it outfitted about 11 million diesel cars worldwide with a defeat device, embedded software that allowed the vehicles to recognise when they were being tested in laboratory conditions, and to reduce emissions to meet acceptable levels.

VW developed the devices in an attempt to boost sales by offering “clean diesel” that would meet heightened emissions standards and attract environmentally conscious customers. The company needed to certify that the vehicles complied with US standards and wasn’t able to do so without cheating.

VW’s costs so far include settlements of government and customer lawsuits, buybacks and retrofits of affected vehicles, and the criminal plea deal, which included $2.8 billion in criminal fines and $1.5 billion in civil penalties. The firm and its executives are still under investigation in Germany and it faces investor lawsuits in the US and at home. Schmidt is the second employee sent to prison for participating in the cheating scheme. 

James Liang, a veteran VW engineer, was sentenced to 40 months in prison in August.

Liang, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy last year and has been cooperating with prosecutors, has appealed his sentence. Schmidt, a German national, was arrested in Miami while on vacation. 

He was deemed a flight risk and denied bail. Five other executives were indicted by the US and remain in Germany, avoiding arrest. 

They include executives who led engine development as well as the failed efforts to design a diesel engine that would meet the tougher emissions standards the US adopted for 2007, as well as another liaison to US regulators.

PAYING THE PRICE

•German native (pictured) pleaded guilty to conspiracy, pollution count

•Diesel-has cost $30 billion so far

•Federal prosecutors sought the maximum of seven years, while Schmidt asked US District Judge Sean Cox to limit his sentence to 40 months

First Published: Fri, December 08 2017. 02:51 IST
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