Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Oliver Schmidt is one six current or former Volkswagen executives indicted in the United States for involvement in the carmaker's emissions fraud scandal. But Schmidt, the only exec currently in custody in the U.S., claims his role in the coverup was as a bit player.
Several dozen VW execs remain under investigation in both Germany and the U.S., but Schmidt is the first to present his side of the story to the courts.
According to the New York Times, Schmidt's lawyers claim in public court documents that their client was a mostly unknowing accomplice and intermediary -- a liaison between VW and the Environmental Protection Agency -- following orders from VW lawyers and corporate superiors.
"Mr. Schmidt's participation in these meetings was guided, at times, by internal legal advice, and given his lack of relevant technical expertise, he relied on explanations given by diesel experts," the exec's lawyers wrote in court filings.
Schmidt is accused of knowingly providing the EPA with false information about VW's engine computers in diesel vehicles, which investigations revealed were purposefully programmed to hide poor emissions performance. The 48-year-old German was arrested and arraigned in Miami, Fla., in January. Since his arrest, Schmidt has been held without bail in a federal detention center in Detroit. Earlier this week, Schmidt pleaded not guilty to fraud charges.
Schmidt's lawyers are currently working on getting their client out of jail. Schmidt's legal team claims the exec will surrender his passport and remain in Detroit until his legal matters are settled.
Volkswagen pleaded guilty to charges of defrauding American consumers and regulators in January, and agreed to pay a total of $4 billion in penalties.
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