Oliver Schmidt led Volkswagen regulatory compliance office from 2014 to Mar 2015, and it was he who issued statements dismissing the initial West Virginia University reports of cheating in the emissions control systems of the company's cars, lying to US regulators and insisting that the systems were merely buggy, and not deliberately designed to get around emissions testing; after the company admitted to the fraud, he appeared before the British Parliament and insisted that the fraud didn't violate EU law.
Although a low-ranking engineer has already pleaded guilty to his role in the fraud, Schmidt is the first exec to be arrested over the affair.
The arrest came as Volkswagen and the Justice Department neared a deal to pay more than $2 billion to resolve the criminal investigation into the emissions cheating. The company or one of its corporate entities is expected to plead guilty as part of the deal.
The settlement could come as early as next week, barring any last-minute hiccups, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations.
The German automaker has been eager to put the Justice Department investigation behind it before President-elect Donald J. Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20.
F.B.I. Arrests Volkswagen Executive on Conspiracy Charges in Emissions Scandal
[Adam Goldman and Hiroko Tabuchijan/New York Times]