A maximum seven-year sentence for former Volkswagen AG executive Oliver Schmidt closes a long chapter in perhaps the largest and most expensive conspiracy in the global auto industry’s history, reports the Detroit News. Schmidt, 48, also was fined $400,000 in federal court for his role in the automaker’s diesel emissions cheating scandal. The German national pleaded guilty in August to two charges in Volkswagen’s scheme to rig nearly 600,000 diesel cars to evade U.S. pollution standards. “This crime … attacks and destroys the very foundation of our economic system: That is trust,” U.S. District Judge Sean Cox said Wednesday. “Senior management at Volkswagen has not been held accountable.”
The case did drive former CEO Martin Winterkorn to resign in 2015, soon after the scandal broke. It was one of the rare executive departures in a transatlantic scheme that undermined confidence in one of Germany’s corporate pillars and forced the automaker to pay at least $16 billion in fines and settlements. Six other former Volkswagen executives remain at large. Experts said Cox’s tough sentencing could make it unlikely that other indicted employees — most living in Germany and out of reach from U.S. law enforcement authorities — will be brought to justice in the scandal that marred Volkswagen’s image as an environmentally friendly company. Schmidt worked at the German automaker’s Michigan offices from 2012 to February 2015. He was arrested in Florida in January for his alleged involvement in what came to be known as Dieselgate.