Volkswagen engineer pleads guilty in U.S. diesel emissions investigation

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A Volkswagen engineer pleaded guilty on Friday for assisting the German automaker evade U.S. emission requirements, and his lawyer said he would cooperate with federal authorities in their investigation.

James Liang, who has worked for Volkswagen from 1983 and was part of a team of engineers who established a diesel engine, was charged of conspiring to dedicate wire fraud and breaching U.S. clean air laws. He is the very first individual to face criminal charges relevant the diesel emissions cheating case.

The 62-year-old German resident, who lives in Newbury Park, California, appeared in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Friday and participated in a plea agreement that includes his cooperation with the government in its investigation.

The indictment says Liang conspired with current and previous VW staff members to mislead the U.S. federal government about software that federal regulators called a “defeat device,” which allowed the car manufacturer to offer diesel engines that produced more smog-forming gases than the nation’s emission standards enable.

” I understood that Volkswagen did not disclose the defeat device to U.S. regulators,” Liang said in court.

Liang might confront five years in prison however may get a much lighter sentence if the federal government finds he provided significant assistance.

A grand jury prosecuted Liang in June, however the indictment was only revealed on Friday.

Volkswagen spokesperson Jeannine Ginivan refused to discuss the indictment. “Volkswagen is continuing to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice,” she stated.

Mark Chutkow, chief of the criminal department for the United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan, refused to talk about the investigation.

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