The former general manager of Volkswagen’s US Environment and Engineering Office has been sentenced to up to seven years in prison for his role in selling “clean diesel” vehicles containing software designed to cheat emissions tests.
On Wednesday (6 December) Oliver Schmidt, 48, a German citizen, was sentenced by US District Judge Sean Cox of the Eastern District of Michigan, who also ordered that the defendant pay a criminal penalty of $400,000.
Mr Schmidt pleaded guilty on 4 Aug 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.
The German car-maker was at the heart of the scandal over the use of ‘defeat-devices’ in diesel cars to pass laboratory emissions tests – but which failed to meet emissions standards in real-world driving conditions.
According to the US Department of Justice, after entering a guilty plea Mr Schmidt admitted that he had learned during the summer of 2015 that certain VW diesel vehicle models contained a defeat device, or software that detected the difference between when the car was undergoing standard US emissions testing and when it was being driven under normal conditions on the road.
He also 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.
Commenting following the sentencing, Acting US Attorney Daniel Lemisch, said: “This sentence reflects how seriously we take environmental crime. Protecting natural resources is a priority of this office. Corporations, and individuals acting on behalf of corporations, will be brought to justice for harming our environment.”
EPA Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield, added: “As this case demonstrates, EPA is committed to ensuring a level playing field for companies that follow the rules and pursuing individuals whose actions create an unfair competitive advantage for their employer.”