MIAMI – The FBI arrested a Volkswagen executive who faces conspiracy to defraud the United States in the company’s diesel emissions cheating scandal, law enforcement officials said.
Agents arrested Oliver Schmidt, former chief of Volkswagen’s U.S. regulatory compliance office, in Florida, a law enforcement official and another source familiar with the case told The New York Times.
Although Schmidt’s arraignment was expected in Detroit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he will be arraigned in Miami on Monday.
After reports surfaced that Volkswagen fabricated emissions tests on its diesel-powered cars sold in the United States, Schmidt represented the company in trying to persuade regulators that excessive emissions noted in the tests were the result of technical issues, rather than deliberate cheating.
After Volkswagen admitted in September 2016 the tested cars were programmed to deceive regulators, prompting cheating accusations and lawsuits around the world, Schmidt continued to defend the company. In January, he told a British Parliament committee that Volkswagen’s action were not illegal in Europe.
The company acknowledged 11 million of its cars were fitted with illegal software enabling them to defeat emissions tests.
Lawsuits filed by the attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts identified Schmidt’s involvement in attempting to conceal the emissions cheating from regulators.
The lawsuits mentioned that Schmidt and other Volkswagen executives regularly gave false technical explanations for the high level of reported emissions of the cars, beginning in 2014.
Schmidt later acknowledged a “defeat device” installed on the cars, capable of defeating pollution tests.