FBI Arrests Volkswagen Executive on Dieselgate-Related Conspiracy Charges

The Justice Department isn't messing around.

Dieselgate-related arrests have finally hit the executive suite at Volkswagen. This past weekend, the FBI arrested former top emissions compliance manager, Oliver Schmidt, according to The New York Times, and he will likely be arraigned early this week. The FBI is charging the former executive with conspiracy to defraud the United States, according to court documents.

According to a statement by FBI Agent Ian Dinsmore in a sworn affidavit, Schmidt attempted to convince regulators that the excessive emissions were due to a technical problem, and not the presence of a cheating device. These false statements stemmed all the way back to 2014, when VW first began being investigated after a study by West Virginia University revealed the presence of the emissions-cheating software in select Volkswagen vehicles. 

(If you remember from our heavy coverage of Dieselgate over the past year and a half, the diesel vehicles in question were emitting 40 times more nitrogen oxide than legally allowed; and the company only continued sales temporarily under the notion that the defect was not intentional.)

Schmidt is the first VW executive to face charges in the United States, but he is not the first person from the company to face the federal government's legal wrath. Former engineer James Liang pleaded guilty to multiple charges last September, including violation of the Clean Air act and the same conspiracy charge leveled against Schmidt.

In addition to already allocating $16 billion to resolve civil claims and associated settlements with owners and other parties, VW is reportedly speaking with the Department of Justice in regards to fines and criminal prosecution.

This isn’t the first time criminal charges have been brought upon a large automaker. Both Chevrolet and Toyota were prosecuted over the way they handled safety defects—but instead of pleading guilty, both agreed to pay large fines. Should VW plead guilty, the company could be entering some fairly unusual waters for an automaker.