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VW executive to plead guilty in 'dieselgate' case
[CHICAGO] A Volkswagen executive charged with fraud and conspiracy for his part in covering up the "dieselgate" emissions-cheating scandal has agreed to plead guilty, US officials said Tuesday.
Oliver Schmidt, who led the German automaker's US regulatory compliance office from 2012 to March 2015, will plead guilty at an August 4 hearing at a US federal court in Michigan, the officials said.
It was the latest development in the two-year old scandal, after VW admitted in 2015 to equipping about 11 million cars worldwide with defeat devices to evade emissions tests, including about 600,000 vehicles in the United States.
Prosecutors and lawyers representing Schmidt told US District Judge Sean Cox of the plea agreement during a morning status conference, court spokesman David Ashenfelter told AFP.
In an email to AFP, the Justice Department confirmed the plea deal, but there were no further details released on its substance of the agreement. Mr Schmidt's attorney did not immediately return requests for comment.
Mr Schmidt would be the second VW employee implicated in the emissions scandal to plead guilty.
James Liang, a former Volkswagen engineer, pleaded guilty last year of helping devise a defeat device used to circumvent emission tests. An FBI affidavit cited him as a cooperating witness in the government's case.
The German automaker pleaded guilty in March to criminal charges that it defrauded the US and conspired to violate the Clean Air Act.
The company agreed to pay US$4.3 billion in criminal and civil fines, on top of US$17.5 billion the company had already agreed to pay in settlements with car owners, dealers and for environmental cleanup.
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.
The company developed the illegal technology in 2009 and prosecutors alleged senior employees attempted a coverup after learning of the scheme in 2015.
Volkswagen still faces an array of legal challenges in Germany and worldwide relating to the scandal.
The global carmaker has so far set aside more than 22 billion euros (S$33.24 billion) to cover fines and compensation related to dieselgate, but experts estimate the final bill could be much higher.