Volkswagen pleads guilty in emissions scandal, could pay $25B

VW already agreed to pay $4.3 billion in fines in January

Volkswagen AG on Friday pleaded guilty in a US District Court in Detroit to three counts of felony for the automaker's role in the diesel-emissions scandal that first broke in September 2015, Reuters reports. As part of the plea, VW agreed to have an independent auditor oversee US operations for as long as three years. The plea, in which VW admitted to obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit fraud, follows the agreement by Europe's largest automaker in January to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil fines.

The plea stems from VW's decision to install its diesel-powered vehicles with software that programs the cars to emit artificially low amounts of pollutants when they're in the process of being tested. VW installed the software in as many as 580,000 diesel-powered vehicles during a six-year period in the US alone. The company has since agreed to buy back as many as a half-million of those vehicles.

In all, Volkswagen will pay as much as $25 billion in the US alone as a result of the scandal. The automaker put a stop-sale on its diesel vehicles in the US in late 2015 and has no plans to resume. The US Justice Department has also charged seven current or former VW executives with crimes for their roles in the scandal, including one who is in custody. Oliver Schmidt, who ran VW's US regulatory compliance department, was arrested in January. Additionally, James Robert Liang, a Volkswagen engineer, pleaded guilty last September. He could face five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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