Volkswagen executive thrown behind bars for 7 years over emissions scandal

The former general manager, Oliver Schmidt, has also been handed a hefty $400,000 fine.

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Volkswagen

A former Volkswagen executive heavily involved in the emissions scandal has been sentenced to 84 months in prison for his actions.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) revealed that Oliver Schmidt has been prosecuted by a US federal court in Michigan, by District Judge Sean Cox, for the scandal which tarnished the German automaker's reputation, cost the company billions, and set off a slew of court cases.

The so-called emissions scandal came to light in 2015, when reports surfaced that Volkswagen's "clean diesel" vehicles were anything but.

In order to circumvent pollution and emissions regulations enforced in the US and in other countries, the company installed "defeat devices" in models which produced more than permitted pollution levels.

These devices would ensure the vehicles produced acceptable levels of emissions in laboratory and test conditions, but once on the road, pollution increased -- sometimes up to 30 times higher than US standards allow.

As a result, when the scheme was uncovered, Volkswagen was forced to recall close to 11 million vehicles worldwide for replacement or fixes.

In a statement, the DoJ said Schmidt, the former general manager of the firm's environment and engineering office, will serve seven years behind bars. In addition, the executive must pay a $400,000 fine.

The 48-year-old pleaded guilty on August 4 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act, and to one count of violating the Clean Air Act.

"Upon learning of Volkswagen's massive scheme to defraud and mislead US consumers and regulators, Oliver Schmidt chose to join the conspiracy and deceive US regulators," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan. "This case, along with the prior prosecution of the company and another Volkswagen engineer, further demonstrate the Criminal Division's unwavering commitment to hold both corporations and individuals accountable for their wrongdoing."

Schmidt worked with other employees to hoodwink regulators and customers over the true nature of clean diesel vehicles, and after learning of the devices in 2015 met with regulators and continued to push for new models to be released, despite knowing he was failing to reveal the truth.

"On the instructions of management, Schmidt met with US regulators twice in August 2015 and attempted to obtain approval for the sale of additional VW diesel vehicles without disclosing what he knew was the truth -- that the real reason for the high emissions on the road was that VW had intentionally installed software designed to cheat emissions testing," US prosecutors said.

"Schmidt admitted to participating in discussions with other VW employees in the summer of 2015 on how to coordinate responses to questions from US regulators about VW's diesel vehicles without admitting to the defeat device contained in vehicles," the DoJ added.

A former Volkswagen engineer, James Liang, is already serving time for his role in the scheme. The engineer was sentenced to 40 months in prison and must pay a $200,000 fine after admitting to implementing defeat devices in thousands of Volkswagen vehicles.

Six other Volkswagen executives have been indicted.

Volkswagen itself has pleaded guilty to three charges of felony counts of fraud, obstruction of justice, and selling products through false statements. The company also agreed to a settlement with US regulators worth $4.7 billion.

Previous and related coverage

    Volkswagen pleads guilty to criminal conduct in emissions scandal

    The company has admitted to obstructing justice in an earlier settlement with US prosecutors.

    Volkswagen to pay up to $14.7 billion in US emissions scandal probe

    Customer deceit and circumventing software has cost the automaker dearly -- and the story isn't over.

    Volkswagen: A chain of mistakes and poor mindset led to emissions cheating

    The German automaker says while there is no excuse for stepping over legal boundaries, a bad company mindset was at fault.

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