Volkswagen has pleaded guilty to three felony counts as part of a $4.3bn (€4bn) plea agreement reached with the US Justice Department in January over the carmaker’s massive diesel emissions scandal.
VW general counsel Manfred Doess made the plea on the company’s behalf after he said at a hearing in US District Court in Detroit that he was authorised by the board of directors of VW to enter a guilty plea.
“Your honour, VW AG is pleading guilty to all three counts because it is guilty on all three counts,” Doess told the court. US District Judge Sean Cox accepted the guilty plea to conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction of justice and entry of goods by false statement charges.
Doess said the criminal acts occurred in Germany and the US. It is unclear how the settlement will affect proposed legal action on this side of the Atlantic.
In recent months, more than 800 motorists had contacted O’Dwyer Solicitors in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, which is representing claimants over the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
In Britain, where 1.2 million cars are affected, law firm Harcus Sinclair UK, which is being supported by Slater and Gordon, had thousands of drivers signed up to potential legal action.
Under the US deal, VW agreed to sweeping reforms, new audits and oversight by an independent monitor for three years after admitting to installing secret software in 580,000 US vehicles to enable it to beat emissions tests over a six-year period and emit up to 40 times legally allowable pollution.
An assistant US attorney, John Neal, told the court that the emissions scheme “was a well thought-out, planned offence that went to the top of the organisation”.
He said VW could have faced $17bn to $34bn in fines under sentencing guidelines. Volkswagen agreed to change the way it operates in the US and other countries under the settlement.
VW, the world’s largest carmaker by sales, in January agreed to pay $4.3bn in US civil and criminal fines. VW agreed to spend up to $25bn in the US. n Irish Examiner staff and Reuters
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved