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The Volkswagen Diesel Scandal Takes a Turn in the US

12.05.16 - Volkswagen Logo

There’s no real doubt that many of those responsible for the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal will eventually be charged criminally if they can be, but there is a great deal of difficulty in being able to do this. Most of the team that is responsible for this massive debacle are in Germany and most likely wouldn’t be sent to the US to face the criminal charges that would be levied against them. This leave the decision for the US Justice Department to choose whether or not they should charge these individuals with any criminal activity.

Fortunately for the Department of Justice, one engineer from the team that created the defeat device does reside in the US. Because of this they have now charged James Liang with charges relating to the creation of this device and he has agreed to a plea agreement that allows him to assist the DOJ with their investigation in exchange for his freedom. Currently the charges Liang is facing could result in him being sent to prison for five years, but his cooperation will certainly reduce and may even erase that possibility as long as results are realized.

Liang is a 62 year old engineer who worked for Volkswagen from 1983 until the present time. He was part of the team that developed the defeat device equipped diesel engines that are now the subject of one of the largest automotive scandals ever. Liang has been working in the US since 2008 after leaving Germany, which is around the time these emissions cheating 2.0-liter TDI engines began to make it to the US market. Certain the DOJ didn’t expect to have someone from the original team here in the US, but now that they do you can expect they will take full advantage of the situation.

Currently charges of conspiracy to commit fraud against the US regulators and customers is what’s facing Liang. The indictment served against him alleges that he conspired with past and current engineers to mislead the government regulators and create and sell vehicles that were knowingly cheating the US EPA emissions testing programs. With his agreement to cooperate the pressure will be on the executives of Volkswagen even more than it already had been. This indictment was served in June, but was only recently made public and Liang has been working closely with the DOJ since the incitement was levied against him.

Volkswagen has already agreed to pay for the damages to the tune of nearly $16.5 billion but the criminal charges that may be levied against Liang and others haven’t been finalized nor are any part of the settlement agreement between the DOJ and Volkswagen Group. I’m sure this isn’t the last part of the Volkswagen scandal that we’ll hear about and this news of the indictment gives the DOJ an inside look at what happened to cause Volkswagen to choose to release a device on their vehicles that would cheat emissions because they weren’t able to create one they wanted to sell and still be within the emissions guidelines.

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