Volkswagen engineer jailed over emissions fraud

  • 26/08/2017
Volkswagen cheated on its emissions tests. Photo credit: AAP

Former Volkswagen engineer James Liang has been sentenced to 40 months in prison for his role in the company's multiyear scheme to sell diesel cars that generated more pollution than US clean air rules allowed.

US District Court judge Sean Cox in Detroit also ordered Liang to pay a US$200,000 fine, 10 times the amount sought by federal prosecutors.

Mr Cox said he hoped the prison sentence and fine would deter other car industry engineers and executives from similar schemes to deceive regulators and consumers.

Liang was part of a long-term conspiracy that perpetrated a "stunning fraud on the American consumer", Mr Cox said, as the defendant's family looked on in the courtroom.

"This is a very serious and troubling crime against our economic system."

Liang pleaded guilty earlier this year to misleading regulators, and had co-operated with US law enforcement officials investigating Volkswagen.

Prosecutors last week recommended that Liang, 63, receive a three-year prison sentence, reflecting credit for his months of co-operation with the US investigation of Volkswagen's diesel emissions fraud. Liang could have received a five-year prison term under federal sentencing guidelines. Liang's lawyers had asked for a sentence of home detention and community service.

Liang can appeal the sentence, Mr Cox said.

Volkswagen pleaded guilty in March to three felony charges under an agreement with prosecutors to resolve the US criminal probe of the company itself. It agreed to spend as much as US$25 billion in the US to resolve claims from owners and regulators and offered to buy back about 500,000 vehicles.

Volkswagen has admitted that it used software to deceive regulators in the US and Europe from 2006 to 2015. The ruse allowed the car-maker to sell diesel-equipped cars and sport utilities without installing emissions control systems that could have compromised performance or posed an inconvenience to customers, prosecutors charged.

Prosecutors said the deception lasted a decade and first affected vehicles in the 2009 model year in the US.

Liang is still employed by Volkswagen but no longer works as an engineer.

US prosecutors have charged eight current and former Volkswagen executives in connection with the diesel emissions cheating probe. Liang is one of the lowest-ranking executives charged so far.

Another VW executive, Oliver Schmidt, has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced in Detroit on December 6.


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