Volkswagen to pay $2.8 billion in US diesel emission scandal

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2015, file photo, the VW sign of Germany's Volkswagen car company is displayed at the building of a company's retailer in Berlin. Volkswagen diesel owners can choose to either sell their car back to the company or get a repair that could diminish the vehicle’s performance under a settlement of claims tied to the German automaker’s emissions-cheating scandal. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

DETROIT (AP) — A judge on Friday ordered Volkswagen to pay a $2.8 billion criminal penalty in the United States for cheating on diesel emissions tests, blessing a deal negotiated by the government for a “massive fraud” orchestrated by the German automaker.

U.S. District Judge Sean Cox stuck to the plea deal during the sentencing hearing, six weeks after VW pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice in a scheme involving nearly 600,000 diesel cars in the U.S. They were programmed to turn on pollution controls during testing and off while on the road.

Speaking from the bench in the heart of the global auto industry, Cox said he was amazed that VW would commit such a crime.

“Who has been hurt by this corporate greed? From what I can see it’s not the managers at VW, the ones who get paid huge salaries and large bonuses. As always it’s the little guy,” the judge said, referring to car buyers and VW’s blue-collar workers who might earn less in the future.

Separately, VW is paying $1.5 billion in a civil case brought by government regulators and spending $11 billion to buy back cars and offer other compensation.

Seven employees have also been charged with crimes in the U.S., but five are in Germany and are unlikely to be extradited.

Cox urged the German government to “prosecute those responsible for this deliberate massive fraud that has damaged an iconic automobile company.”

In brief remarks to the judge, VW defense attorney Jason Weinstein says the criminal fine is an “appropriate and serious sanction.”

VW general counsel Manfred Doess said the company is not the same one that was caught 18 months ago.

“Volkswagen deeply regrets the behavior that gave rise to this case. … Plain and simple it was wrong,” Doess said. “We let people down and for that we’re deeply sorry.”

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