US Judge Orders Volkswagen Exec Oliver Schmidt Held Until Trial (Next January)

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Orders from the court are that Volkswagen AG exec Oliver Schmidt be detained until his trial in January 2018. These orders come from a US federal judge in Detroit. The decision follows arguments by prosecutors that Schmidt represented a substantial flight risk — as a reminder, the German constitution doesn’t allow for the extradition of German citizens to other countries.

As we reported previously, Schmidt has been charged with a total of 11 felony counts, including fraud, and is facing up to 169 years in prison (though it seems very unlikely that he’ll end up facing a sentence anything like that). His trial is expected to begin on January 16, 2018.

6 other current and former Volkswagen execs have been charged by US prosecutors in criminal cases relating to the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating scandal. Though, Schmidt is the only one in custody — the others appear to be hiding out in Germany, where they can’t be extradited.

As some further background, Schmidt was previously the head of Volkswagen’s environmental and engineering center in Michigan, and has been in US custody since January. He was appended during a stopover in Miami, on his way back to Germany from a vacation in Cuba.

The presiding judge, Sean Cox of the US District Court for Eastern Michigan, commented on the decision: “The allegations of fraud and conspiracy in this case are very, very serious. There is a serious risk that Mr Schmidt will not appear in this case.”

Reuters provides more: “The ruling on Thursday came despite pleas from family and friends, including Schmidt’s parents, who offered a combined $1.6 million in assets such as property and cash to pay his bail. The defense had asked that Schmidt, who appeared in court in handcuffs and a fluorescent orange prison jumpsuit, be confined to his home and wear a GPS tracking device. Defense attorney David DuMouchel said Schmidt had been open about his travel plans to the United States prior to his arrest, despite knowing he could be charged.”

The argument used by the defense was: “This is hardly the action of someone who was trying to avoid the jurisdiction” of the US — “all he had to do was stay home.”

This was rebutted by an assistant US attorney by the name of John Neal, who stated that as Schmidt maintains few ties to the US, and is potentially facing much harsher penalties here than in Germany, he could well choose to flee the country.

The charges would almost certainly be much lighter in Germany, and that’s presuming he’s charged there — which is no guarantee.

Image courtesy of Broward County Sheriff’s Office


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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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