Senior VW exec jailed for seven years over dieselgate cover-up

Staff writer

The former general manager in charge of Volkswagen's environmental and engineering office has been fined and jailed in the US, after pleading guilty to helping cover up the firm's diesel emissions scandal.

Oliver Schmidt, a German national who worked in VW's Michigan office, was accused of concealing software that the company used to artificially lower levels of harmful nitrous oxides in exhaust emissions.

Schmidt pleaded guilty to his part in the coverup, but argued that VW had 'misused' him. However, the sentencing judge, Sean Cox, sided with the prosecution.

It said Schmidt oversaw emissions at the Michigan office from 2012 to early 2015, and did not disclose the cheat software during a meeting with California regulators in 2015. The government said he later misled investigators and destroyed key documents.

Oliver Schmidt, General Manager, Engineering and Environmental Office, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., makes his Advanced Powertrain Forum presentation at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefing Seminars, Traverse City, Mich.

Federal officials told the court: "The defendant has a leadership role within VW. As a consequence of that role, he was literally in the room for important decisions during the height of the criminal scheme."

Schmidt was sentenced to seven years in jail, and fined $400,000 (approx. £298,000). Both the imprisonment and fine were at the top end of sentencing guidelines.

Cox told Schmidt in court: "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... and climb the corporate ladder at VW."

The wider Volkswagen Group has so far paid the US Government $4.3 billion (£3.2bn) in fines for its part in the diesel emissions scandal. First revealed in September 2015, the firm illegally manipulated software on its cars to artificially lower nitrous oxide emissions under test conditions. It was found the cars emitted far beyond legal levels of the harmful gases when underway on public roads.