The US government is out for blood.
Earlier in the year the US government issued arrest warrants for six Volkswagen executives. Of those six, only one was arrested. Oliver Schmidt was nabbed at the Miami airport. The other five execs who were safely overseas in Germany may never return to the US, at least not after learning how many years in prison their colleague could be facing. Automotive News reports that Schmidt, the former head of Volkswagen’s environmental engineering center in Michigan, is facing 11 felony charges that could see him locked up for 169 years.
The trial is set to kick off April 18th, although Schmidt’s lawyers are asking for a postponement to prepare his defense. To us it seems like the US government is determined to make an example out of Schmidt, or at the very least strike fear into the hearts of the other five execs currently on the lam. So far the VW Group is looking like it will emerge from Dieselgate relatively unscathed. Yes, the financial penalties and buyback program will cost it billions. The thing is, its sales haven’t really suffered and the top execs behind the scandal haven’t faced any real punishment. Getting fired isn’t the same as getting thrown in the slammer. The South Korean VW executive recently sentenced to 18 months in prison knows that firsthand.
There’s a lot of time between now and the start date of the trial. We wouldn’t be shocked if Oliver Schmidt’s lawyers were angling for a plea deal of some sort. Even if he did come to a deal with prosecutors he’d probably still face prison, though. The US government is pissed and seems to want someone to pay.