VW exec jailed for seven years over 'dieselgate' fraud
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A second senior Volkswagen manager, Oliver Schmidt, has been sentenced to seven years in prison in the wake of the dieselgate emissions scandal.
Schmidt, 48, led VW’s engineering and environmental office in Michigan from 2012 to early 2015 while VW used sophisticated software to cheat US emissions rules on nearly 600,000 US vehicles.
Prosecutors say Schmidt concealed the software tricks to California regulators while offering “bogus” explanations of differences in emission levels. His lawyers argued that he wasn’t involved when the scheme was hatched years earlier within the company.
But US courts have ruled that he didn’t disclose rogue software that had long fooled authorities into believing VW was meeting emissions rules. Schmidt was also found to have destroyed documents and misled American investigators.
Lawyers spent about 90 minutes giving different views about Schmidt’s culpability in the scandal. But US District Judge Sean Cox sided with prosecutors, calling Schmidt a “key conspirator” in the deception, who viewed the cover-up as an opportunity to “shine”.
“I’m sure, based upon common sense, that you viewed this cover-up as an opportunity to shine — to climb the corporate ladder at VW,” Cox said. “Your goal was to impress senior management.”
The diesel vehicles were programmed to trigger certain pollution results only during testing, not during regular road use. The plan was hatched in 2006, and the vehicles were marketed as “clean diesel”.
Schmidt, was arrested in Miami in January while trying to return to Germany. He has been held in custody in the US since his arrest.
“For the disruption of my life, I only have to blame myself. ... I accept the responsibility for the wrong I committed,” Schmidt told the judge.
Engineer James Liang co-operated with the FBI and was sentenced to 40 months in prison last summer. Other VW employees have been charged, but they are in Germany and out of reach of US authorities.
Schmidt’s lawyers argued his sentence should be identical to Liang’s, noting that his role only heated up in 2015 in the last months of the scheme.
But US Department of Justice trial attorney Benjamin Singer noted that Schmidt still was a major player at key events and purposely “lied and deceived”.
VW pleaded guilty to deceiving authorities in March, and agreed to pay $6.25 billion in civil and criminal penalties, on top of having spent billions of dollars more to buy back affected vehicles.