VW executive Schmidt pleads guilty in auto emissions scandal
Detroit, US - Oliver Schmidt, a Volkswagen AG (VW) compliance executive charged in the company’s emissions-cheating scandal, pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court in Detroit to conspiracy and violating the US Clean Air Act.
Schmidt faces up to seven years in prison, said US District Judge Sean Cox, with sentencing scheduled for December 6. Schmidt agreed to be deported after he has completed his sentence, Cox said.
Schmidt’s plea is the latest fallout stemming from VW’s admission in September 2015 that about 11mn diesel vehicles worldwide were outfitted with so-called defeat devices to cheat emissions tests.
VW attempted to boost sales by offering ‘ clean diesel’ that would meet heightened emissions standards and attract environmentally conscious customers.
The company couldn’t sell vehicles in the US without certifying they met the emissions standards and couldn’t meet the standards with its diesel vehicles without cheating.
claims. That includes VW’s agreement to pay US$4.3bn in penalties to resolve the federal criminal investigation and plead guilty to using false statements to import cars in the US and obstructing investigations.
Schmidt (48), is one of eight Volkswagen or Audi executives criminally charged in the US for their alleged roles in the scheme. Five VW executives based in Germany were indicted along with Schmidt and a former Audi manager was charged last month.
Schmidt, a German national, is the most-senior VW executive to plead guilty. In September, Volkswagen engineer James Liang pleaded guilty for his role in implementing software that would cheat US emissions tests. Liang, who is cooperating with prosecutors, is scheduled to be sentenced August 25.
Schmidt, who was denied bail as a flight risk, has been in US custody since he was arrested in January while on vacation in Florida. Schmidt was accused of conspiring with the company and other individuals to deceive US and California regulators and customers into believing VW’s diesel vehicles complied with emissions standards.
As regulators were investigating discrepancies in emissions from the company’s diesel vehicles in August 2015, Schmidt met with an employee of the California Air Resources Board and ‘did not disclose that VW had intentionally installed software in the subject vehicles designed to cheat and evade emissions testing’,’ US prosecutors said in court papers.
He was also involved in providing false statements on documents required by the Clean Air Act, the US said.
‘Volkswagen continues to cooperate with investigations by the Department of Justice into the conduct of individuals’, the company said in an email.
The scandal has already cost the company more than US$24bn to settle US civil and criminal