Volkswagen executive faces sentencing in U.S. emissions fraud case

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DETROIT, Dec 6 – Volkswagen AG
executive Oliver Schmidt will be sentenced in federal court in
Detroit on Wednesday for his part in a diesel emissions scandal
that has cost the German automaker as much as $30 billion.

Under a plea agreement, Schmidt, a German national, will
face up to seven years in prison and a fine between $40,000 and
$400,000 after admitting to conspiring to mislead U.S regulators
and violating clean-air laws.

He pleaded guilty to those charges in August.

In a sentencing memorandum submitted to U.S. District Judge
Sean Cox, U.S. prosecutors argued Schmidt should be sentenced to
the full seven years in prison.

“The defendant had a leadership role within VW, and as a
consequence of that role, was literally ‘in the room’ for
important decisions during the height of the criminal scheme,
including when decisions were made to continue to hide the fraud
from U.S. regulators and the U.S. public,” prosecutors argued.

Schmidt’s attorney, David DuMouchel, asked that the judge
impose a sentence of no more than 40 months and a $100,000 fine
in line with his client’s “limited role” in the scheme.

“Mr. Schmidt is substantially less culpable than… the
numerous senior-level VW executives (most of whom will never
appear in a U.S. courthouse) who initiated, designed,
implemented, and refined the defeat device over nine years
before Mr. Schmidt became involved,” DuMouchel wrote.

In March, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to three felony counts
under a plea agreement to resolve U.S. charges that it installed
secret software in vehicles in order to elude emissions tests.

U.S. prosecutors have charged eight current and former
Volkswagen executives so far.

Earlier this year, Schmidt was charged with 11 felony counts
and federal prosecutors said he could have faced a maximum of up
to 169 years in prison. As part of his guilty plea, prosecutors
agreed to drop most of the counts and Schmidt consented to be
deported at the end of his prison sentence.

Schmidt was in charge of the company’s environmental and
engineering office in Auburn Hills, Michigan, until February
2015, where he oversaw emissions issues.

After being informed of the existence of the emissions
software in the summer of 2015, according to his guilty plea,
Schmidt conspired with other executives to avoid disclosing
“intentional cheating” by the automaker in a bid to seek regulatory approval for its model 2016 VW 2 litre diesels.

In a letter to Cox originally published by Germany’s Bild am
Sonntag newspaper on the weekend, Schmidt said he had agreed to
follow a script, or talking points, agreed on by VW management
and a high-ranking lawyer at a meeting with a California Air
Resources Board executive.

“I must say that I feel misused by my own company in the
diesel scandal or ‘Dieselgate,’” Schmidt wrote.

-(Reuters)