Published: Sat, September 10, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

VW Engineer Pleads Guilty in Emissions Scandal

Justice Department officials said Liang's plea agreement provides that he will cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation.

"Almost from the beginning of VW's process to design its new "clean diesel" vehicles, Liang and his fellow co-conspirators designed these VW diesel vehicles not to meet U.S. emissions standards, but to cheat the testing process by making it appear as if diesel vehicles MetUS emissions standards when, in fact, they did not", the Justice Department said in a 24-page indictment. He appeared in court with a translator.

He has been charged with criminal conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud U.S. regulators and Volkswagen customers in violation of the U.S. Clean Air Act. He's set to be sentenced on January 11 and could get up to five years in prison.

Liang directly contributed to Volkswagen rigging more than 10 million vehicles to cheat on emissions tests which resulted in billions of dollars of fines the company was forced to pay. The indictment alleges Liang and unnamed co-conspirators resorted to using the cheating software after realising the cars could not both meet consumer expectations for performance and satisfy USA emissions standards.

The company also has agreed to pay $15.3 billion in civil penalties to compensate owners of its USA diesel cars, including an agreement to fix or buy back the cars.

Reuters reported in August that VW and the Justice Department had held preliminary settlement talks about resolving a criminal probe into the emissions scandal. Germany and South Korea are conducting separate criminal probes of the company.

VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan declined to comment on the indictment. Federal prosecutors and FBI agents in California - where VW has pollution testing labs - also are involved. They included several managers whom an internal investigation found had turned a blind eye to the effort. If the company wants to be identified as cooperating with the department, the company has to name names.

What About My Car?

Top-ranking auto executives have rarely been prosecuted in their companies' scandals.

An agreement was finalized in April 2016 in which Volkswagen will buy back half a million cars in the US which were involved in the scandal.

Cars featuring the "defeat device" included the 2009-2015 Audi A3 and VW's Beetle, Golf, Jetta and Passat TDI cars with 2-liter diesel engines, as well as some 3-liter engine cars.

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