U.S. prosecutors charged six high-level, Volkswagen executives with various criminal charges related to the automaker’s years-long emission cheating scheme.
VW executives and employees were charged in a 10-year conspiracy to dupe regulators on the environmental quality of its diesel vehicles. Oliver Schmidt, the first executive for the German automaker to be arrested in connection with the emission scandal, was among those charged.
The company also agreed to a $4.3 billion settlement Wednesday, putting an end to the U.S. government’s investigations into the German automaker’s diesel emissions cheating.
VW will pay a $1.5-billion civil fine and $2.8-billion criminal fine, according to court documents. The company would have stiffer penalties had it refused to spend more than $11 billion to fix or buyback the nearly 500,000 tainted vehicles.
Schmidt and the others will be sentenced after they plead guilty to conspiracy charges, including conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction of justice and lying about the types of vehicles VW sold.
The Department of Justice said VW officials told engineers in 2012 to destroy documents showing that the company’s lawyers prodded employees to get rid of evidence of the fraud.
VW admitted in September 2015 to installing so-called defeat devices in hundreds of thousands of diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. The devices would only kick on during road conditions when emission measuring tools were not engaged.
Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Homeland Security were among those present at a press conference Wednesday announcing the charges. Environmental regulators used the news to justify their mission.
“The American people demand a strong EPA” to protect people from corporations that pollute and poison the environment and waterways, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said at the conference, which was also attended by US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“Individuals with VW are being charged to show that those who commit serious crimes will be charged with face serious charges,” McCarthy said, adding: The EPA keeps big corporations from running rough shod over American consumers.
The EPA and other governmental agencies leaned on VW heavily to engage in various green energy programs as a form of penance.
VW agreed to a deal in December forcing the company to buy back or fix nearly 83,000 3.0-liter diesel vehicles. The company must maintain an 85 percent recall rate or risk dumping more money into a mitigation fund propping up several green energy projects.
Mitigation actions, according to the EPA’s website, include allowing states affected by the tainted vehicles to charge “infrastructure for light duty zero emission passengers”
The deal requires the company to contribute $225 million into the fund, which was developed earlier this year to fix VW’s tainted 2.0-litre diesel vehicle – VW would have to put more money into the account if it fails to reach the proscribed recall rate.
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