One employee is already in jail awaiting trial after he arrived at Miami's airport.
Volkswagen Group executives now need to be careful where they travel because multiple countries want to indict some of the automaker’s leaders. The prosecutors in the United States and South Korea face charges stemming from the company’s diesel emissions scandal. Going to the wrong place, could put the workers at risk of extradition. According to Reuters, VW’s legal team is warning execs not to leave Germany, even those not facing indictments.
As an example of the potential pitfalls facing VW Group executives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Oliver Schmidt in Miami, Florida, on January 7 at the Miami International Airport when he was returning to Germany from a trip to Cuba. Schmidt was in charge of VW Group’s regulatory compliance in the U.S. from early 2014 through March 2015. The Department of Justice charged him with conspiracy to defraud the United States. According to Reuters, Schmidt is now in prison without bail until an upcoming trial.
The DoJ also indicted five other former or current VW execs, including: Heinz-Jakob Neusser, Jens Hadler, Richard Dorenkamp, Bernd Gottweis, and Jürgen Peter. They face charges like conspiracy to defraud, Clean Air Act violations, and wire fraud. Other than Schmidt, prosecutors believe the rest of them are still in Germany.
Separately, prosecutors in South Korea have charged seven other execs, including Audi Volkswagen Korea boss Johannes Thammer, according to Reuters. Two other former company leaders in the region, Trevor Hill and Park Dong-hoon, also face indictments.
On January 11, VW agreed to pay $4.3 billion in penalties in the U.S to settle three felony charges. The company is also on probation for three years, and an independent monitor is working with the automaker to create a new ethics program there. The punishment comes in addition to the automaker agreeing to buy back vehicles with the polluting 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesel engines.