VW executive, Oliver Schmidt, pleaded not guilty for his alleged participation in the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal
More and more top VW executives are being subjected to investigations, and some may be criminally charged for their alleged participation in the Volkswagen Emissions Scandal.
This is the case for one unlucky executive, Oliver Schmidt, who has been charged with conspiracy for his alleged involvement in what has been the biggest automotive scandal in history.
Mr Schmidt’s arrest
Mr Schmidt, the VW former emissions compliance manager, was arrested in mid-January in Florida. The allegations centre on his alleged role in VW’s cover-up of its diesel dishonesty, which has led to around $19 (£15) billion in both criminal and civil settlements so far. Mr Schmidt was tried in the U.S. District Court in Detroit on 24th February 2017 where he pleaded not guilty.
Allegations against Mr Schmidt
Mr Schmidt has been accused of working with a group of top VW executives over a period of three years to “develop, deploy and conceal devices” that enabled the German automaker to cheat emissions testing. He was indicted on 10 counts, including violations of the Clean Air Act, and wire fraud. Collectively, the charges could add up to a possible sentence of 149 years in prison, although judges rarely stack charges consecutively, according to reports.
Mr Schmidt, a German national who worked in the U.S. at VW’s research and development centre from 2012 to 2015, oversaw the automaker’s environmental and engineering office. According to the criminal complaint, Mr Schmidt “knowingly participated in the conspiracy”.
He continued working for the automaker up until about September 2015. His exit could’ve been a coincidence, although some may believe he left the company just in the nick of time; i.e. when the scandal erupted onto the media.
The government contends that the executives spent over a decade developing the cheating software in order to defraud customers and environmental regulators.
One of many perpetrators
The very same investigation involves two anonymous cooperating witnesses and a third VW employee, James Liang, who recently pleaded guilty for his participation in the scandal. As a result of Mr Liang’s cooperation, other executives like Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis and Jurgen Peter, could well face similar charges.
Mr Schmidt is the first of nearly 37 people under investigation in Germany. Some employees may argue they were trapped in a ‘corporate conspiracy’; portraying themselves as victims rather than perpetrators, and may shift the blame on to the top executives listed above.
Guilty or not guilty?
Few seem surprised that Mr Schmidt pleaded not guilty. Though his wrongdoing has yet to be substantiated, guilt is being inferred. By working with the government, Mr Liang could’ve provided invaluable insider information in regards to the creation and execution of the “defeat device”.
Mr Schmidt’s guilt could be substantiated by the fact that, on around 9th May 2014, he reportedly sent an email to a VW employee saying, “Are you crazy? Recall the email”, and this was allegedly in response to an employee raising a red flag with Mr Schmidt that they had been found out, “as mentioned orally, VW currently has the problem of high off cycle emissions that the EPA has now found out about and we must respond”.
We’ll continue to monitors these developments.