By on January 13, 2017

800px-wolfsburg_vw-werk

After a Volkswagen official was collared in Miami while on vacation, other top company officials have been warned to stay close to home.

Oliver Schmidt, who allegedly lied to environmental regulators to cover up VW’s emissions cheating, was arrested by FBI agents Saturday while returning home from a Cuban holiday. According to Reuters, Schmidt, one of six former or current VW managers indicted on multiple charges this week, could face up to 169 years in a U.S. prison if found guilty.

After the FBI’s lucky airport break, a new report suggests top brass in Wolfsburg are feeling penned in. Kiss that winter vacay goodbye.

Sources inside the company and in the legal world tell Reuters that top-ranking managers at Volkswagen headquarters have been warned not to leave the country. With informants piling up in the U.S., the obvious fear is that Johnny Law could be waiting on the tarmac. Authorities in other countries could extradite the employees to the U.S.

An unnamed company lawyer claims Schmidt, who is being held without bail, was among the managers warned not to stray outside German borders.

Five of the six officials indicted by a U.S. federal court remain in Germany, but the no-fly warning also extends to several employees not facing charges. The first VW employee arrested in the U.S., engineer James Liang, apparently sang like a canary, and is still helping Department of Justice and FBI investigators. That likely led to the charges against the others.

For Schmidt, the eleven felony counts could lead to an “effective life sentence,” one Justice Department official said.

Suspiciously, only a single VW executive appeared at the recent Detroit auto show. Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess, who joined the company shortly before the scandal became public, arrived in Detroit alone — a move an unnamed senior VW manager called “bold.”

Earlier this week, VW pleaded guilty to three felony charges and agreed to pay a $4.3 billion civil and criminal settlement.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)]

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54 Comments on “Volkswagen Exec Could Get 169 Years; Top Managers Warned Not to Go on Vacation...”


  • avatar
    Tosh

    A CUBAN holiday?! Oh the IRONY!

    • 0 avatar
      ChesterChi

      At least this additional bit of information explains why Schmidt was in Florida. Previously I assumed he stayed in Florida during his vacation, which seemed stupid. Now it appears that he was just making a connection between 2 flights.

      • 0 avatar
        Whatnext

        At least its good to know he didn’t get busted for not being able to resist the tawdry charms of southern Florida. Should have connected through Toronto!

        • 0 avatar
          Tosh

          “Ze moneys dat I vill save not going through Canada like I did last year I can use on hookers und blow.”

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Still might not protect them. While flying from his home in Canada to his birthplace in the Caribbean, the plane that Dr. Jamie Astaphan was flying in was forced down in the USA by the DOJ.

            He was incarcerated in Florida for 2 years without ever being tried.

            Probably released after promising not to reveal the juicing he knew about by American Olympic athletes.

            Dr. Astaphan was well respected by all his patients and those who worked with him at Scarborough General.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Considering that Cuban tourism is about child prostitution, southern Florida doesn’t sound so tawdry.

          • 0 avatar
            Whatnext

            LOL, spoken by someone who obviously knows zilch about tourism to Cuba, Unsurprising thanks to the incredibly stupid trade embargo the US pereptuated for years.

          • 0 avatar
            RainMotorsports

            @Whatnext The fact you think it was stupid shows how little you understand the circumstances. Cuba decided to take the property of american companies without a single dollar of compensation. If someone steals millions (in an era where millions are a significant sum) of property from your countries businesses why should you allow them to do business with your country? The american people would have had a fit if the government did not step in. Now while the companies (even today) want to act on their property claims, the government would have been happy to act on other politics due to issues with the Russians. A little would have gone a long way. Hell part of the reason we still have issues with the Russians is they never gave us back our aircraft from WW2 or paid us for them when they destroyed them. That’s not what you do to an ally. Which to a narrow scope of definition they were before the end of the war.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        It’s still stupid. There are TONS of direct flights bewtween Cuba and Europe. It’s a pretty popular European vacation destination and lots of the ones that do go there transfer through Cologne.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    Wonder how many years GM Admin will get for the ignition scandal? Anyway this news does not look good for FCA and their Jeep and RAM products

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      Zero.

      Moving on…

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2017/01/six-volkswagen-executives-indicted-by-department-of-justice/#comment-8791449

      None – and they shouldn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        yeah, I dropped a reply over there but expecting to change the minds of any of the “B&B” is a fool’s errand. this is a place where the instant you form an opinion on something, you’re absolutely correct and know everything you need to know about it.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Right. The GM ignition “scandal”, which is greatly trumped up, pales in comparison to the Takata scandal.

      Let’s not let facts get in the way of a good anti-GM rant.

      The Takata folks should be getting 169 years for killing 16 people and injuring many others.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    In alternate history world, that building has a Ford logo on the side of it – think about that.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Can you imagine the sinking feeling you would get realizing that if only you had rescheduled your flight you wouldn’t be in that mess?

    But, I don’t get why they always suggest someone will get a ridiculously long sentence when no one in their right mind thinks it’s even possible.
    169 years for this? What would it say about our country if we sentenced someone to life in prison for lying?

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      Exactly. I’m all for the financial book being thrown at companies, but come on, is this scandal really worth taking the rest of someone’s life from them? That’s absurd, and I’d argue violates our Eighth Amendment.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Yep, but don’t feel too bad for this guy…he’s got an army of lawyers to plead that down. My guess is he would do six months with Bernie Ebbers as his cellmate.

        • 0 avatar
          ckb

          “don’t feel too bad for this guy…he’s got an army of lawyers to plead that down.”

          How the f is that supposed to make anyone feel any better?! I suppose your message is something like “Get rich so your lawyers can protect you from arbitrary justice”

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @S2k Chris
        Over the top penalties suggest their is another agenda here.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        General vs. Specific deterrence… It’s a sensationalist charge anyway, as there is no way the guy will even do 1/10th (or probably even 1/100th) of that time.

    • 0 avatar
      whitworth

      ” What would it say about our country if we sentenced someone to life in prison for lying?”

      And lying to EPA regulators of all things.

      I like the Hillary model for when someone gets punished for lying to a federal agency.

      He never intended to hurt the environment.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      “What would it say about our country if we sentenced someone to life in prison for lying?”

      It’s long been argued what white collar crime is more impactful than blue collar crime, but the criminal sentences are light by comparison. Not sure if I agree or disagree, but this sure seems to be bringing that more into balance.

      • 0 avatar
        ckb

        “It’s long been argued what white collar crime is more impactful than blue collar crime, but the criminal sentences are light by comparison. Not sure if I agree or disagree, but this sure seems to be bringing that more into balance.”

        uhh…if we’re talking balance, maybe we should start with the architects of the mortgage crisis (soon to be represented in the cabinet!)? Or maybe require US pickup trucks to meet the emissions specs VW tried to beat?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        My collar is green, am I in trouble?

  • avatar
    chris724

    Apparently, crimes against Gaia are worse than murder.

  • avatar
    never_follow

    So your lawyers warn you against leaving the country.

    What do you do:
    A) Swallow the cost of your holiday, and stay in Germany (or at least Eurozone)
    B) Say Phuket and go right into the wasps nest.

    The hubris the guys at the top have is truly mind-boggling.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    How many years did Hillary get for lying to a government agency? And destroying evidence?

  • avatar
    carguy

    The 169 number is just the cumulative theoretical maximum the relevant laws allow. It is extremely unlikely that even 1% of that time would be served.

    But it does make for a great headline. So it has that going for it.

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    Every time I see the VW Wolfsburg plant I think it looks like the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals. Given the sort of PR Volkswagen gets these days, it sorta fits.

    Ha ha, charade you are.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    169 years? There are murderers, rapists and child molesters whose sentences don’t even come CLOSE to 169 years. Plenty are out in ten or less. These are people who are a real threat to society.

    But what do I know? The feds only care about fulfilling their agendas.

    I can’t believe I am funding this #!#!# with my tax dollars.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Agreed!

    • 0 avatar
      kmoney

      I do agree with you, but this did have meaningful consequences and it’s not like cheating emissions was a victim-less crime. Even if you take the low estimate, the death total from the defeat devices exceeds even the most prolific of American serial killers.

      https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/dec/09/the-difficulty-of-calculating-deaths-caused-by-the-volkswagen-scandal

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      I can’t believe I funded Chrysler’s survival with my tax dollars!

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      This is a classic journalistic clickbait strategy of coming up with the maximum possible penalty to maximize drama.

      I disagree; this guy cheating emissions hurts everyone. They’re both threats. The difference between this guy and a child rapist is that the VW exec can actually be deterred by stiff penalties; most criminals are too stupid to be deterrable.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    I’m NOT going to Disneyland!

  • avatar

    Ask the Germans to extradite Winterkorn. Has FCA CEO Marchionne set foot on American soil for the Detroit Auto Show?

  • avatar
    kmoney

    169 years, reduced to ‘time served’ for the car ride to the airport until his attorney got him ROR’d. It’s America, white-collar criminals don’t get meaningful jail sentences…

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