According to the Justice Department, employees of Volkswagen and VW of America were actively involved in perpetrating the emissions fraud VW has admitted took place. In October, a VW engineer pled guilty to a single count of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government and has agreed to cooperate with investigations in both the U.S. and Germany.
While it is unclear whether the engineer’s cooperation was at play, a second executive was recently arrested in the scandal. The man, a former general manager in charge of the Engineering and Environmental Office in Bloomfield Hills, is accused of wire fraud, violating the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. He is expected in Detroit for arraignment.
Feds may be counting on an eyebrow-raising email to prove the conspiracy
According to the Courthouse News Service, the scandal first came to light when a nonprofit called the International Council on Clean Transportation was commissioned to perform independent tests in 2014. Those tests showed a number of VW diesel models were emitting much higher amounts than expected from the standard emissions tests that had been performed. The EPA says that 2-liter diesel models were emitting over 40 times the U.S. legal limit for nitrogen oxide.
A year after the ICCT tests were revealed, Volkswagen decided to admit wrongdoing. It had installed illegal software to beat standard emissions tests on some 500,000 2-liter diesel engines in both VW and Audi vehicles sold in the U.S. Later on, it expanded that admission to some 3-liter diesel models.
What happened during the year between the accusation and the company’s admission that it installed cheat software?
After receiving the ICCT study results, the general manager prepared an analysis of the situation, including what monetary penalties the EPA could issue. He also emailed this message to a colleague:
“It should first be decided whether we are honest. If we are not honest, everything stays as it is.”
That email does not make up the whole extent of evidence developed by the Justice Department, but you can bet it will get major attention at trial. It sounds flashy and makes great headlines.
The rest of the evidence described in the Courthouse News Service story is not nearly as exciting. Apparently, when regulators asked the man how VWs could be emitting at such a higher rate than expected, he “offered reasons for the discrepancy” other than that illegal software had been installed.
It’s still very early in the case; the man hasn’t been arraigned and at press time may not have hired a lawyer yet. At this point, however, the evidence does not seem overwhelming.