VW pleads guilty in 'dieselgate' case, ending US case

<i>Image: Rainer Jensen/DPA via AP</i>
<i>Image: Rainer Jensen/DPA via AP</i>

New York - German automaker Volkswagen pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the emissions-cheating scandal, closing an important chapter in the saga that has rocked the company since 2015.

The company in January agreed to plead guilty and pay $4.3-billion in criminal and civil fines to settle charges that it defrauded the United States and conspired to violate the Clean Air Act by installing so-called defeat devices on diesel-powered cars that evaded emissions standards.

Volkswagen spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said in a statement: "Volkswagen deeply regrets the behavior that gave rise to the diesel crisis. The agreements that we have reached with the US government reflect our determination to address misconduct that went against all of the values Volkswagen holds so dear."

Guilty plea

The settlement with the Justice Department also requires the company to hire an outside compliance monitor for three years.

The guilty plea entered Friday is in addition to $17.5-billion that the company already agreed to pay in settlements with car owners, dealers and for environmental cleanup.

One aspect of the case that remains unresolved is the fate of VW executive Oliver Schmidt who US authorities arrested in Miami in January, one of six company officials charged in the matter.

Prosecutors this week rejected defense arguments that Schmidt should be released pending the outcome of his case and described him as a flight risk. The other five company officials charged are believed to be in Germany.

Regulators in 2015 discovered that Volkswagen diesel cars marketed as clean in fact spewed up to 40 times the permissible limits of nitrogen oxide during normal driving, but this was hidden during emissions testing.

As many as 11-million vehicles sold worldwide were configured to cheat emissions tests.

The company developed the illegal technology in 2009 and, according to court documents, prosecutors believe senior employees attempted a coverup after learning of the illegal technology in 2015.

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