VW boss gets 7 years in US prison

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One of Volkswagen's most senior executives has been sentenced to 7 years in a United States prison over his role in the company's diesel emissions scandal.

The prison sentence and fine for the executive, Oliver Schmidt, were the maximum possible under a plea deal that the German national struck with prosecutors in August after admitting to charges of conspiring to mislead United States regulators and violate clean-air laws.

After hearing arguments from both sides for 90 minutes, Judge Sean Cox said Schmidt's role in "Dieselgate" was too large to avoid a lengthy stay in prison.

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Along with the seven years in prison, Schmidt was ordered to pay a $400,000 fine.

Schmidt recently wrote a letter to Judge Cox, claiming he felt "misused" by Volkswagen.

"You saw this as your opportunity to shine. and climb the corporate ladder at VW."

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Schmidt originally faced up to 169 years in prison on 11 felony counts before he entered his guilty plea.

VW used sophisticated software to cheat emissions rules on almost 600,000 US vehicles.

Schmidt, 48, who has been in custody since his arrest in Miami in January, will be given credit for the time he has served in prison.

Schmidt's lawyers argued that his sentence should be identical to Liang's, noting that his role only heated up in 2015 in the last months of the scheme. In August, VW auto engineer James Liang received a 40 month sentence and a $US200,000 ($263,713) fine for his role in the scandal.

A study published in May found that excess nitrogen oxide from improperly configured diesel vehicles had contributed to about 38,000 premature deaths worldwide in 2015.

Schmidt, who had returned to Germany, was arrested in Florida in January after attempting to return home from a vacation following the filing of an Federal Bureau of Investigation complaint.

VW's costs so far include settlements of government and customer lawsuits, buybacks and retrofits of affected vehicles, and the criminal plea deal, which included $2.8 billion in criminal fines and $US1.5 billion in civil penalties. Other Volkswagen executives have been charged in this case, but they remain in Germany, out of reach of American authorities.

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