By David Shepardson and Joern Poltz
WASHINGTON/MUNICH (Reuters) – A U.S. judge in Detroit on Thursday approved the transfer to Germany of a former Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> executive imprisoned in the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal.
In 2017, the U.S.-based VW executive Oliver Schmidt, who oversaw emissions issues, was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined $400,000, the maximum possible under a plea deal the German national made with prosecutors after admitting to charges of conspiring to mislead U.S regulators and violate clean-air laws.
Schmidt, now 51, was not scheduled to be released from a U.S. prison until December 2022. Under the terms of his transfer approved by Judge Elizabeth Stafford, Germany will assume responsibility for enforcing the remainder of his sentence.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
A half-dozen former VW executives charged by U.S. prosecutors are believed to still be in Germany, including former Volkswagen boss Martin Winterkorn.
Winterkorn was also charged by German prosecutors in 2019 with stock market manipulation.
Germany’s Federal Justice Ministry has said it does not extradite German nationals to countries outside the European Union.
In total, nine people have been charged by U.S. prosecutors and two former VW executives who have pleaded guilty in the case were sentenced to prison terms, including Schmidt.
Volkswagen has admitted to using illegal software to cheat U.S. pollution tests in 2015, allowing up to 40 times legally allowable emissions and in 2017 pleaded guilty to fraud, obstruction of justice and falsifying statements as part of a $4.3 billion settlement reached with the Justice Department.
The scandal triggered a global backlash against diesel vehicles that has so far cost VW 30 billion euros ($33.3 billion) in fines, penalties and vehicle buyback costs.
Last month, a U.S. appeals court ruled VW cannot escape potential financial penalties stemming from lawsuits filed by two counties that may amount to a “staggering” additional liability.
(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Joern Poltz in Munich; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)