Volkswagen on Wednesday agreed to plead guilty to three criminal felony counts and agreed to pay a record $4.3 billion in fines and fees related to its emissions cheating scandal in the U.S., while another six top executives were charged over their alleged roles in the conspiracy to rig air pollution tests.
The settlement includes $2.8 billion in criminal penalties and $1.5 billion in civil claims, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The car company also agreed to work with an independent corporate compliance monitor for at least three years.
“Volkswagen’s attempts to dodge emissions standards and import falsely certified vehicles into the country represent an egregious violation of our nation’s environmental, consumer protection, and financial laws,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
The executives, who were indicted by a federal grand jury in Michigan, are being charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to defraud VW’s American customers, violations of the Clean Air Act, and wire fraud, all stemming from what prosecutors say was a nearly 10-year operation.
The charges come after the DOJ drew criticism for its seemingly lenient treatment of the executives, as federal prosecutors declined to press charges against individual VW employees for more than a year after the company admitted to wrongdoing. It is unclear if the executives, all German, will be extradited or face prison time. (Five of the six men are in Germany, but one was arrested in Florida earlier this week.)
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