Volkswagen AG will plead guilty to three criminal charges and pay a total $4.3 billion in fines to settle the emissions cheating scandal known as "dieselgate," U.S. officials announced on Wednesday, January 11, AFP reports.
The U.S. Justice Department also charged six Volkswagen executives deemed responsible for the conspiracy, five of whom are believed to be in Germany while one was arrested in Miami on Saturday.
The Justice Department charged VW with conspiracy to defraud the United States and violate the Clean Air Act by using defeat devices on its diesel vehicles that evaded emissions standards. The company also was charged with obstruction of justice for destroying documents related to the scheme.
The company will pay $2.8 billion in criminal fines, and $1.5 billion in civil fines. That is in addition to $17.5 billion already agreed in settlements with car owners, dealers and for environmental cleanup.
The settlement also requires the company to employ an independent corporate compliance monitor for at least three years.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the size of the penalty reflects the unusual level of premeditation of wrongdoing at high levels of Volkswagen.
"The knowledge and choices they made went to the executive levels and that did set it apart from other companies," she said at a news conference in Washington.
The six VW executives believed to be in Germany were identified as Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis and Jurgen Peter. All are described as heads of divisions or supervisors.
On Monday, Oliver Schmidt was arraigned in a court in Miami following his arrest upon visiting the country.
Lynch said it was "too early to predict" how US officials might work with their German counterparts to bring the other executives to justice. She also said the investigation could extend to other individuals.
The settlement requires the German automaker to cooperate with the Justice Department on its ongoing prosectors of the executives.
Volkswagen said it would also cooperate with inquiries by the Braunschweig and Munich public prosector's offices in Germany.
"Volkswagen deeply regrets the behavior that gave rise to the diesel crisis," Volkswagen chief executive Matthias Muller said in a statement.
"The agreements that we have reached with the US government reflect our determination to address misconduct that went against all of the values Volkswagen holds so dear. They are an important step forward."