VW fined $4.3 bil­lion; 6 ex­ec­u­tives in­dicted

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Six high-level Volk­swa­gen em­ploy­ees from Ger­many were in­dicted in the US on Wed­nes­day in the VW emis­sions-cheat­ing scan­dal, while the au­tomaker it­self agreed to plead guilty to crim­i­nal charges and pay $4.3 bil­lion — by far the big­gest fine ever levied by the govern­ment against an au­tomaker.

In an­nounc­ing the charges and the plea bar­gain, Jus­tice Depart­ment pros­e­cu­tors de­tailed a large and elab­o­rate scheme in­side VW to com­mit fraud and then cover it up, with at least 40 em­ploy­ees al­legedly in­volved in de­stroy­ing ev­i­dence.

“Volk­swa­gen ob­fus­cated, they de­nied and they ul­ti­mately lied,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch said.

VW in­stalled soft­ware in diesel en­gines on nearly 600,000 VW, Porsche and Audi ve­hi­cles in the US that ac­ti­vated pol­lu­tion con­trols dur­ing govern­ment tests and switched them off in real-world driv­ing. The soft­ware al­lowed the cars to spew harm­ful ni­tro­gen ox­ide at up to 40 times above the le­gal limit.

US reg­u­la­tors con­fronted VW about the soft­ware af­ter univer­sity re­searchers dis­cov­ered dif­fer­ences in test­ing and real-world emis­sions. Volk­swa­gen at first de­nied the use of the so-called de­feat de­vice but fi­nally ad­mit­ted it in Septem­ber of 2015.

Even af­ter that ad­mis­sion, pros­e­cu­tors said, com­pany em­ploy­ees were busy delet­ing com­puter files and other ev­i­dence.

The fine eas­ily eclipses the $1.2 bil­lion penalty levied against Toyota in 2014 over un­in­tended ac­cel­er­a­tion in its cars.

The Ger­man com­pany pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy, ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and im­port­ing ve­hi­cles by us­ing false state­ments.

Un­der the agree­ment, VW must co­op­er­ate in the con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which could lead to the ar­rest of more em­ploy­ees.

The au­tomaker also agreed to the ap­point­ment of an in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tor to over­see its com­pli­ance for three years.

Volk­swa­gen pre­vi­ously reached a $15 bil­lion civil set­tle­ment with en­vi­ron­men­tal au­thor­i­ties and car own­ers in the US un­der which it agreed to re­pair or buy back up to a halfmil­lion of the af­fected ve­hi­cles.

The six su­per­vi­sors in­dicted by a fed­eral grand jury in Detroit were ac­cused of ly­ing to en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tors or de­stroy­ing com­puter files con­tain­ing ev­i­dence.

All six are Ger­man cit­i­zens. Five re­mained in Ger­many and were not im­me­di­ately taken into cus­tody. The only one un­der ar­rest was Oliver Sch­midt, who was seized over the week­end in Mi­ami dur­ing a visit to the US.

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