A court in Detroit has sentenced the first VW employee in connection with the German carmaker's diesel emissions-cheating scandal. James Liang was handed a 40-month prison term after pleading guilty to conspiracy.
Volkswagen's longtime engineer James Liang was sentenced to 40 months in prison and a $200,000 (169,000-euro) fine in Detroit Friday after he had confessed to playing a part in the German carmaker's large-scale emissions-cheating scandal.
Judge Sean Cox spoke of "a serious crime" in which Liang had played a key role.
Prosecutors had only sought a jail term of up to three years and a fine of $20,000 for 63-year-old Liang, who had been in the company for 35 years. That was nowhere near the maximum term of seven years and a possible fine of $400,000.
Liang had been cooperating with authorities in the US and pleaded guilty in October to a charge of conspiracy.
Among other things, he provided important information to US Justice Department officials in their investigation of the Wolfsburg-based automaker after the company admitted in September 2015 that it had installed so-called defeat devices in about 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide to manipulate emissions test results in the lab.
Read more: How VW managed to ruin its reputation
Oliver Schmidt, who had held a top position in VW's US emissions compliance team until March 2015, is currently the only other Volkswagen employee to face a verdict in the United States.
The FBI arrested him on January 7 in Miami. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the US and to conspiring to commit wire fraud as well as violating the Clean Air Act. He admitted his role in the emissions-cheating scam to reduce criminal charges against him and reduce the fine that was expected to be slapped on him.
Read more: Schmidt arrested while on vacation
Schmidt will remain jailed until sentencing, which is scheduled for December 6.
Also on Friday, a report by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and German public broadcasters NDR and WDR cited an unidentified former VW quality manager, who had told investigators he had informed then-CEO Martin Winterkorn in July 2015 that the carmaker had cheated during emissions tests in the United States.
VW executives have kept saying they did not learn about the scandal until late August 2015.
Questions have lingered over who knew the used defeat devices were illegal, and when they found out. The timing is important, because VW is being sued by investors for holding back market-sensitive information - an allegation the company's board has always denied.
hg/jd (dpa, Reuters, AFP)