Tuesday 26 September 2017

VW executive pleads guilty over emissions scandal

Oliver Schmidt was arrested while on holiday in Miami (Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP)
Oliver Schmidt was arrested while on holiday in Miami (Broward County Sheriff's Office via AP)

A German Volkswagen executive has pleaded guilty in the US to conspiracy and fraud charges over a scheme to cheat emission rules on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles.

Oliver Schmidt, shackled at the wrists and ankles and wearing red prison garb, appeared before District Judge Sean Cox as part of the US government's case involving the carmaker, which has admitted to using software to get around US emission standards.

Schmidt, 48, is a former manager of a VW engineering office in suburban Detroit who was arrested in January while on holiday in Miami.

He faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the US, wire fraud and violation of the Clean Air Act.

A second count of giving a false statement under the Clean Air Act carries a possible sentence of up to two years in prison.

Schmidt remains jailed and is scheduled to be sentenced on December 6. He could also face deportation.

He is accused of telling regulators technical problems were to blame for the difference in emissions in road and lab tests.

VW pleaded guilty in March to defrauding the US government and agreed to pay 4.3 billion dollars (£3.3 billion) in penalties, on top of billions more to buy back cars.

Most of the VW employees charged are in Germany and out of reach of US authorities.

US authorities had been pressing Volkswagen over emissions test discrepancies and the cheating had been going on for several years.

In 2015, news emerged in the US of Volkswagen's use of software that turned off emission controls.

The software detected when cars were being tested and turned the emission controls off during normal driving.

The result was the cars emitted more than 40 times the US limit for the pollutant nitrogen oxide.

Schmidt told Judge Cox on Friday that VW management directed him in 2015 not to discuss the software.

Some 11 million cars worldwide were equipped with the software.

Meeting US emissions standards was part of the company's "clean diesel" marketing strategy.

"You knew these representations made to US consumers were false," Judge Cox told Schmidt.

VW reached a 15 billion dollar (£11.5 billion) civil settlement in the US with environmental authorities and car owners.

AP

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