Economy

Diesel scandal: convicted VW manager Oliver Schmidt rejects muzzle

Oliver Schmidt after his arrest in January 2017

Oliver Schmidt had four years in prison cells to put his knowledge of the world’s largest automaker on paper. In January 2017, FBI officers arrested the former VW manager in an airport toilet in Miami. A US court saw his key role in the diesel scandal as proven and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

A good week ago Schmidt left the correctional facility in Uelzen, Lower Saxony – as a free man on probation and with his manuscript on the country’s biggest economic scandal. So far, he has not commented publicly. And VW would be very happy if it stayed that way. But according to information from NewsABC.net, confidential negotiations between Schmidt and VW about the signing of a confidentiality agreement failed recently.

Both parties have been arguing in court for years: VW had given Schmidt immediate notice after his arrest. Schmidt had sued against this and demanded compensation. VW, on the other hand, requires Schmidt to reimburse seven-digit lawyers’ fees in America. In order to reach an out of court agreement, the proceedings before the labor court were frozen for a long time. But now the deal fell through.

According to people who are familiar with the process, the muzzle that VW wanted for Schmidt was very far-reaching. “To put it casually, he should only have said his name and that he was once in prison, but not why,” it says. “The mere mention of VW was a problem.” For the Schmidt side, this was apparently not acceptable. Also because, according to reports, Schmidt would like to publish a book about his career at VW and the years in US prison.

Although Schmidt pleaded guilty before the US judiciary, he basically sees himself as a pawn of the fraud affair. At that time he was responsible for the registration of the vehicles in America and had nothing to do with the origin of the exhaust gas manipulation. The instruction not to reveal the truth about the VW fraud to the US authorities came from the executive board, according to Schmidt.

During interrogations with the FBI, among others, he always emphasized that the top management level had been informed about everything. It is quite possible that his statement will therefore also be of interest in the pending criminal case against ex-VW boss Martin Winterkorn. It is considered likely that Schmidt will make use of his right to refuse to give evidence in this case. Since there is no double prosecution agreement with the USA, he could incriminate himself as a witness and theoretically be charged again in Germany.

On request, a company spokesman said he would not comment on the ongoing proceedings. From business circles it is said that after the failed talks with Schmidt, the dispute would now continue to be carried out before the labor court. And because VW has nothing to give away, the demand for reimbursement of the lawyers’ fees, which the automaker had long assumed for Schmidt, should not be off the table. However: Schmidt is unlikely to be able to pay the sum of almost four million euros in the room. In the US federal prison in Milan, he had recently earned a few cents an hour in the workshop.

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