Former Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt has been sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $400,000 (£299,000) by a US District Court for his role in the Dieselgate scandal.
Schmidt was the firm’s emissions compliance manager for the US from 2012 until February 2015. He had returned to Germany but was arrested at an airport in Florida in January. In August, he pleaded guilty to two charges related to the emission scandal: conspiracy to defraud the US to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act; and violating the Clean Air Act. A third charge, relating to wire fraud, was dropped.
Schmidt’s defence attorney had appealed for a maximum sentence of 40 months, with a $100,000 fine. But in the Eastern District of Michigan United States District Court, federal judge Sean Cox told Schmidt: “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.” Both the seven-year sentence and fine were at the top end of sentencing guidelines.
According to The Detroit News, in a letter addressed to Cox ahead of the sentencing, Schmidt wrote: “I am truly embarrassed/ashamed to be standing in front of you.” He added that he felt he had been “misused by my own company in the diesel scandal”.
When he entered his guilty plea, Schmidt said he learned in summer 2015 about the ‘defeat devices’ VW had installed on diesel vehicles that allowed them to pass laboratory emissions tests, and that he had failed to disclose the existence of such devices.
Schmidt is the second Volkswagen employee to be sentenced to prison in the US for his role in the scandal. In August, James Liang, VW’s former head of diesel competence, was sentenced to 40 months in prison and fined $200,000 (£155,000).
Volkswagen AG pleaded guilty in March to three criminal charges related to the scandal, receiving a $2.8bn (£2.1bn) fine and three years of probation.