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Volkswagen executive pleads guilty in U.S. in diesel emissions scandal

A German Volkswagen executive pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and fraud charges in Detroit in a scheme to cheat emission rules on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles.

Oliver Schmidt has been in a Michigan jail since January

 A German Volkswagen executive pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and fraud charges in Detroit in a scheme to cheat emission rules on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles.

Oliver Schmidt is a former manager of a VW engineering office in suburban Detroit. He was arrested in January while on vacation in Miami.
Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt pleaded guilty Aug. 4 to U.S. charges related to the diesel emissions scandal. (Broward County Sheriff's Office via Associated Press)

VW admits using software to get around emission standards. It pleaded guilty in March to defrauding the U.S. government and agreed to pay $4.3 billion US in penalties, on top of billions more to buy back cars.

Schmidt is accused of telling regulators technical problems were to blame for the difference in emissions in road and lab tests. He could face up to seven years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 6.

Most of the VW employees charged in a scheme are in Germany and out of reach of U.S. authorities.

"Schmidt participated in a fraudulent VW scam that prioritized corporate sales at the expense of the honesty of emissions tests and trust of the American purchasers," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jean Williams.

Schmidt, along with each and every official involved in this emissions scandal, will be held fully accountable for their actions by the Department of Justice as this investigation continues."

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 all but three of the counts and Schmidt consented to be deported at the end of his prison sentence.

U.S. authorities had been pressing Volkswagen over emissions test discrepancies and the cheating had been going for several years. In 2015, news emerged in the U.S. of Volkswagen's use of software that turned off emissions controls.

The software detected when cars were being tested and turned the emission controls off during normal driving. The result was the cars emitted more than 40 times the U.S. limit for the pollutant nitrogen oxide.

Some 11 million cars worldwide were equipped with the software, including more than 105,000 sold in Canada.

The company reached a $15 billion civil settlement in the U.S. with environmental authorities and car owners.

With files from Reuters

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