WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Justice announced Wednesday an agreement with Volkswagen for the firm to plead guilty to attempting to defraud the federal government and obstructing the federal investigation into emissions standards violations.
Six of the firm’s executives linked to the scandal will be charged for their alleged involvement in the conspiracy.
The firm will pay a total of $4.3 billion in fines and penalties – a $2.8 billion criminal fine and $1.5 billion in civil penalties – for tampering with software installed in more than half a million vehicles to circumvent environmental laws and lying to federal investigators.
“Volkswagen’s attempts to dodge emissions standards and import falsely certified vehicles into the country represent an egregious violation of our nation’s environmental, consumer protection and financial laws,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch at a press conference.
As part of the agreement, VW agreed to plead guilty to engaging in a 10-year conspiracy to defraud the US government and its own customers.
The six execs who will be charged, all Germans, are: Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis, Oliver Schmidt, and Jürgen Peter.
Schmidt, 48, was arrested on Saturday in Miami. He was the VW official between 2012-2015 who was in charge of communicating with US regulatory agencies, the DoJ said.
The conspiracy to evade US pollution laws affects about 600,000 vehicles in the United States.
“We have taken significant steps to strengthen accountability, enhance transparency and prevent something like this from happening again,” said VW global CEO Matthias Mueller.
VW admitted that its two- and three-liter “clean diesel” engines were rigged to hide their true emissions of nitrogen oxide, a product considered by health authorities to be cancer-causing.