Audi Manager Nabbed in Germany for Role in Diesel Conspiracy; U.S. Authorities Press Charges

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

American investigators, hot on the trail of Volkswagen Group executives and managers with dirty hands, haven’t had the easiest time bringing suspected emissions scandal conspirators to trial. Germany doesn’t extradite citizens facing charges in other countries, making justice a tricky pursuit for U.S. authorities.

So far, only two players in the diesel deception find themselves in the arms of U.S. law enforcement— James Liang, a former executive who worked in California (and has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges), and Oliver Schmidt, a former U.S. environmental liaison who previously worked out of VW’s Michigan emissions office. Federal agents nabbed him during a Miami layover as the German national returned home from a tropical vacation in January. Six others remain safely in Germany after a U.S. indictment.

Well, expect another trial now. Earlier this week, Munich police arrested an Italian national, Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, the former head of thermodynamics at Audi’s engine development division. It’s the first diesel-related arrest in Germany and Pamio’s citizenship means he’s a candidate for extradition to the United States.

Now charged in connection to the scandal, American authorities hope Pamio squeals on his bosses at Audi. As for his involvement, the federal government alleges Pamio and others decided a premium sound system was a better use of vehicle space than a proper emission control system.

On Thursday, the U.S. District Court in Detroit levelled several charges: conspiracy to defraud the U.S., wire fraud, and violation of the Clean Air Act. At his request, U.S. lawyers claim, Pamio directed his engineers to devise a way to fool American regulators into thinking a new crop of diesel engines were in compliance with pollution laws.

While the team answered to Pamio, the engine manager answered to his own higher-ups. It’s believed Pamio’s arrest is part of a plan to have lower-level execs dish dirt on top brass.

“They want names, and they want top managers,” Annette Voges, a German lawyer for one of the indicted VW execs, told The New York Times. The case against Pamio seems to bear this out. In its documentation, the U.S. implies a superior at Audi pressured him to fool American regulators, and that Pamio once spoke out about it to a senior manager. A presentation created by Pamio in 2013, in which the executive shows how special software — a defeat device — could trick regulators, was allegedly shown to a member of Audi’s management board.

Pamio became involved in the emissions cheating, the U.S. claims, after engineers complained the AdBlue exhaust additive tank in 3.0-liter diesel vehicles would take away space needed for a premium sound system. In its place, engineers fitted a smaller AdBlue tank, with specialized software metering out the fluid in smaller-than-required doses. This lead to greater on-road emissions. However, the same software would also meter out the required amount of AdBlue if the vehicle suspected an emissions test was underway, thus keeping the deception a secret.

The intention was to make the fluid last until the vehicle’s regularly scheduled oil change, thus preventing would-be diesel buyers from being turned off by a finicky vehicle.

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Pacificpom2 Pacificpom2 on Jul 08, 2017

    What are the results of the emission cheating debacle? (1) the makers sought to get their vehicles passed in restrictive legislative environments, they lost, big time. (2) The environmentally aware buyer (all XXXX of them) now feels bad that they are polluting the environment more than normal and demand soothing compensation. (3) The average buyer got a less powerful vehicle when retuned, or got a cash back or some other soothing compensation whether they care or not. (4) The American legal system grinds into gear and starts asserting their authority over they rest of the world, (a new world order anybody?). A good job that the rest of the world can't indicate American companies and prosecute and extradite their executives say, for tax avoidance (Amazon, Google, Apple we are looking at you)

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    • Hotdog453 Hotdog453 on Jul 09, 2017

      @zip89123 What should the punishment to Volkswagen be, in your opinion? Anything? If you cannot hold some executives responsible for the decisions, the punishment will be strictly financial and no one held accountable. There has to be someone responsible for the decisions.

  • Pacificpom2 Pacificpom2 on Jul 09, 2017

    Simple, you do what the French did to hold back the Japanese manufacturers in the early days, insist or legislate that all VW cars must undergo an emissions test prior to delivery to dealers or buyer. Don't accept a blanket test result like the manufacturers can do today. Also, this testing can only be done at one certified government testing station and they only have one qualified tech :). This will result in loss of sales/increased cost and set a time limit to for the next two years. It is a punishment that affects the whole group. Now as for executives that broke American laws on American soil, no problems. To request extradition is also fair, whether the sovereign country has treaties or the judiciary allows the extradition, that's another problem. Or you could just rendition them to a compliant nation and take it from there.

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