Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt, who had been in charge of the automaker’s engineering and environmental center in the U.S., plans to plead guilty to some charges against him in a court hearing on Aug. 4, Reuters reports, citing a court spokesperson.
Schmidt, who was taken into custody by FBI agents in Florida earlier this year, had been charged with aiding and abetting wire fraud, violations of the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and was one of six individuals indicted in connection with the VW diesel investigation. Schmidt was in Florida on vacation during the time of his arrest and had been interviewed by U.S. authorities voluntarily on several occasions prior to his arrest. It is believed Schmidt did not expect to be charged or arrested in the case since he traveled to Florida voluntarily, thereby bringing himself within the jurisdiction of U.S. federal authorities in the process.
Schmidt in January pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy in federal court in Detroit, several days before the start of the Detroit auto show, which renewed fears of arrests of executives.
In addition to Schmidt, U.S. authorities indicted former engine development boss Heinz-Jakob Neusser, regulatory manager Jurgen Peter, quality management chief Bernd Gottweis, engine development manager Jens Hadler and engineer Richard Dorenkamp. A seventh individual, VW engineer James Liang, has been cooperating with authorities since 2016 after pleading guilty to conspiring to defraud the U.S. Out of the five remaining indicted individuals, all of whom are currently believed to be in Germany, former engine development boss Neusser represents the most senior figure. It is believed that, absent travel to a foreign country, the five remaining individuals face no real risk of extradition to the U.S.
Some industry observers have suggested Schmidt was essentially a target of opportunity for U.S. authorities while visiting Florida and have expressed surprise about his inclusion within the ranks of the indicted executives and engineers.
Volkswagen Automotive Group settled a criminal case with the U.S. Department of Justice earlier in the year, agreeing to pay some $4.3 billion. The criminal settlement followed a much larger $14.7 billion civil settlement earlier in 2016 which included buyback and repair agreements with U.S. agencies and compensation for affected VW owners.
Volkswagen’s settlement with U.S. authorities has failed to calm the waters as its Audi and Porsche brands now face fresh investigations back home in Germany, with Porsche being the latest target of German prosecutors.