Mr. Liang in September pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to defraud the USA, commit wire fraud and violate the Clean Air Act for his role in helping Volkswagen evade emissions requirements with diesel-powered vehicles. VW tasked Liang with making the defeat device work by calibrating it to recognize specific US emissions tests' drive cycles.
A Volkswagen engineer who had a key role in the company's diesel emissions scandal has been sentenced to more than three years in prison and fined $200,000.
"There is no legitimate sentencing objective served by exposing Mr. Liang, a 63 year-old man who weighs 120 pounds, to threats to his physical safety, or the extortion demands he may face in a low-security prison", Nixon wrote in a court filing. Prosecutors had asked for a 36-month sentence and a $20,000 fine.
Reuters reports that one of Volkswagen's former senior quality managers has informed investigators that on July 27, he personally told Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen's then-CEO, that the automaker had cheated USA emissions tests.
Prosecutors in Germany are engaging in their own probe, though it is not clear if Liang could face additional penalties there.
That was significantly more of a penalty than federal prosecutors originally had sought for James Liang, the first VW employee to plead guilty in a case that has now cost the company almost $30 billion and led to the recall or buyback of millions of diesel-powered vehicles sold in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world. Volkswagen, which has acknowledged the software is on some 11 million vehicles globally, earlier this year pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the US stemming from the deception and agreed to pay billions of dollars in penalties.
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The government says Liang wasn't the mastermind but took part in "pivotal events". We're not saying he didn't commit a crime but he's a good and decent person. This is a stunning fraud on the American consumer.
"This is a very serious and troubling crime against our economic system", he said.
The US Department of Justice said that a Volkswagen engineer will spend three years and four months in a prison for developing a software to cheat US vehicle emissions tests.
Liang also admitted that he helped his co-conspirators continue to lie to the EPA, CARB and VW customers even after the regulatory agencies started raising questions about the vehicles' on-road performance following an independent study commissioned by the International Council on Clean Transportation, which showed that the diesel vehicles' emissions on the road were more than 30 times higher than shown on the dynamometer. Liang and other conspirators came up with a way to program those engines to sharply reduce noxious emissions when undergoing tests.
Mr. Liang cooperated with prosecutors in the early stages of their investigation of Volkswagen and its employees. During these meetings, some of which Liang personally attended, Liang's co-conspirators lied to the regulators by telling them that the VW diesel vehicles complied with US emissions standards. Liang's lawyer had argued that instead of jail time, he could be sentenced to a period of house arrest, arguing that he was only following orders out of "misguided loyalty to his employer".
A former engine-development manager at Volkswagen luxury-unit Audi was charged in July.
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