VW senior manager gets 7 years in USA prison

VW executive Oliver Schmidt sentenced to seven years in jail over Dieselgate

Former Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt, who has pled guilty to criminal charges that he conspired to cover up the automaker's diesel emissions cheating scandal, was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison by a MI federal judge.

Schmidt's sentence was handed down by Judge Sean Cox of the US District Court in Detroit.

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Oliver Schmidt was also fined $US400,000 ($NZ580,000) by a judge on Wednesday for his part in events which have cost the German automaker as much as $US30 billion.

In delivering his verdict, Cox said Schmidt was a "key conspirator" who used his role in the scheme as an opportunity to climb VW's corporate ladder.

Schmidt's lawyers argued that his sentence should be identical to Liang's, noting that his role only heated up in 2015 in the last months of the scheme.

VW's emissions-cheating scandal has cost the company almost $22 billion in criminal and civil penalties in the U.S. alone so far. Five of those remain at large.

At the Los Angeles auto show last week, the head of Volkswagen's USA operations declared, "we're back", citing improved United States vehicle sales.

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He is the highest-ranking VW employee to be convicted in the scheme in the United States and the chances that the USA authorities will prosecute more senior VW executives are slim as most are in Germany, which is unlikely to extradite its citizens to stand trial in the US.

Along with the seven years in prison, Schmidt was ordered to pay a $400,000 fine.

He returned to Germany the same month where he was told about the existence of the software.

Prosecutors say Schmidt concealed the software tricks to California regulators while offering "bogus" explanations of any differences in emissions.

The auto industry is still feeling the repercussions of Volkswagen's diesel cheating.

On Wednesday, German prosecutors said they had begun an initial inquiry into accusations by an environmental group that BMW AG is selling a vehicle that emits up to seven times the allowed levels of smog-forming nitrogen oxides.

Why he made a decision to risk arrest by going to the United States, the Times aptly put it, "remains a mystery".

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