Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt — the head of the company’s environmental and engineering office (overseeing emissions issues) in Auburn Hills, Michigan, until early 2015 — has been sentenced to 7 years in prison and fined $400,000 for his part in defrauding US regulators regarding the company’s diesel vehicle emissions.
The prison sentence and the fine both constitute the maximums possible as per the plea deal that Schmidt made with prosecutors back in August, when he admitted to conspiring with other Volkswagen execs to violate US clean-air laws and to defraud regulators.
It should be noted here, though, that despite Schmidt’s intimate involvement, he certainly wasn’t the lynchpin of Volkswagen’s criminal actions in the US, but really rather a foot soldier of sorts doing what he was asked to (in exchange for money and an executive position). The primary figures behind the decision to defraud US regulators (and those elsewhere) remain “at large” (in Germany, where they know they won’t be extradited to the US) and are very unlikely to ever face justice in the US.
With regard to the sentencing, US District Judge Sean Cox of Detroit was pretty blunt in his assessment, stating: “It is my opinion that you are a key conspirator in this scheme to defraud the United States. You saw this as your opportunity to shine … and climb the corporate ladder at VW.”
During the sentencing, Schmidt reportedly read a written statement acknowledging guilt and broke down, referencing the “sacrifices” his family has made to try to help him since his arrest.
“I made bad decisions and for that I am sorry,” he stated.
Reuters provides more: “US Department of Justice trial attorney Benjamin Singer argued in court that Schmidt was ‘part of the decision making process’ at VW to hide a scheme to fake vehicle emissions results and had opportunities to tell regulators the truth. ‘Every time he chose to lie,’ Singer said.
“… Volkswagen rebounded from the scandal during the past year. Chief Executive Matthias Mueller last month predicted record deliveries of vehicles for the company this year, and the Volkswagen car brand has said it expects record deliveries for 2017, and raised its midterm profitability outlook. At the Los Angeles auto show last week, the head of Volkswagen’s US operations declared, ‘we’re back,’ citing improved US vehicle sales.”
Altogether, US prosecutors have now charged 8 current and former Volkswagen execs with various crimes in association with the diesel vehicle emissions cheating scandal — 6 of which remain at large and seem unlikely to ever face the courtroom.
In related news, thanks to work done by the German environmental group DUH, prosecutors in Germany have reportedly now opened an inquiry into BMW concerning the possible use of defeat devices allowing real-world nitrogen oxides emissions up to 7 times the legal level.
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