A US-based Volkswagen AG executive who oversaw emissions issues was sentenced to 7 years in prison and fined $400,000 by a judge on Wednesday for his role in a diesel emissions scandal that has cost the German automaker as much as $30 billion.
Alongside the sentence Schmidt was fined $400,000.
He had pleaded guilty in August to charges he conspired to commit fraud and violate the US Clean Air Act. The prison term and the fine together represent the maximum sentence that Schmidt could have received under the plea deal he signed in August.
"I made bad decisions and for that I am sorry", he said. Schmidt also wrote a letter to the judge, which surfaced over the weekend, in which the executive said he felt "misused" by his own company and claimed that higher-ranked VW executives coached him on a script to help him lie to a California Air Resources Board (CARB) official.
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Schmidt's lawyer. David DuMouchel of Detroit, asked for a maximum of 40 months in prison and $100,000 fine. Although six other VW Group executives have been indicted, none are in USA custody. He admitted knowing about and agreeing with engineers to carry out a scheme to install a device on certain VW diesel vehicles that would switch on for emissions tests, but switch off during normal driving.
He is one of eight people charged by US authorities in the emissions scandal, which involved installing software in some 500,000 VW 2.0 liter diesel vehicles sold in the USA from 2009 through 2015 to make USA authorities believe that the vehicles met US emissions standards. As VW Group rolled out its massive "clean diesel" marketing campaign appealing to environmentally conscious auto buyers, those same cars were actually emitting nitrogen oxide (NOx) many times in excess of the legal limit.
US Department of Justice trial attorney Benjamin Singer argued in court that Schmidt was "part of the decision making process" at VW to hide a scheme to fake vehicle emissions results and had opportunities tell regulators the truth.
Schmidt, former senior manager of Volkswagen's US Environment and Engineering Office, downplayed his role in the scheme in court papers filed last week asking Judge Cox to limit his sentence. Schmidt ran VW's US engineering and environmental office from 2012 through early 2015 and was responsible for obtaining regulatory approval for VW vehicles sold in the U.S.