Illegal emissions control software used in millions of Volkswagen Group vehicles has cost the company billions of dollars in settlements and repair costs and there’s more coming as far are liabilities are concerned.
Now, it’s the turn of VW engineers involved in Dieselgate who have been under the scanner of authorities and lawmakers. The latest on this is that US District Judge Sean Cox has handed down a hefty fine as an additional deterrent for other automotive industry engineers and executives and on the receiving end is former Volkswagen engineer James Liang who has reportedly received a 40-month prison sentence for his alleged role in the diesel emissions scandal.
Prosecutors recommended a three-year prison term and a $20,000 fine, citing Liang’s cooperation in the investigation, but the judge was not impressed and added four extra months and handed down a much higher fine of $200,000 fine.
The judge observed: “The conspiracy perpetrated a massive and stunning fraud on the American consumer that attacked and destroyed the very foundation of our economic system.”
According to prosecutors, Liang allegedly worked as part of the development team that created the illegal software. Defence attorney of Liang pleaded and said the punishment meted out was excessive for the role that Liang played and argued that he “wasn’t the mastermind” and merely was “blindly executing misguided loyalty to his employer.”
Investigators suggest that VW engineers were pressured to break the law to achieve development goals that were unattainable within the inflexible design constraints enforced by management.
Meanwhile, former VW of America compliance head Oliver Schmidt, has reportedly submitted a guilty plea but has not yet received a sentence for 11 felony charges including Clean Air Act violations and conspiracy to defraud.