Ex-VW Manager Released Early From Diesel-Rigging Prison Term

FormerVolkswagen AG executive Oliver Schmidt, whose 2017arrest at the Miami airport made global headlines, was released from prison after serving a bit more than half his sentence on charges related to the diesel-emissions scandal.

A ruling issued by a court in the German city of Lueneburg allowed Schmidt to be released on parole, his lawyer, Alexander Saettele, said Wednesday. Schmidt, 52, had been sentenced to seven years by a U.S. court but was allowed to return to his home country in November to serve the remainder of his term.

The diesel scandal, exposed by American regulators in September 2015,still haunts VW. The rigging of engines to make it appear that they could pass U.S. emissions tests has cost the world’s largest automaker at least 32 billion euros ($38.7 billion). Lawsuits from disgruntled investors and customers are set to drag on for years.

Schmidt was VW’s liaison with U.S. regulators when he was arrested at the airport in January 2017 on his way back home from a vacation. The manager had traveled to the U.S. despite warnings by lawyers. The arrest sent shock waves through corporate Germany.

After initially pleading not guilty, Schmidt changed his plea to guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and another of violating the Clean Air Act. An American judgesentenced him in December that year, calling him a “key conspirator.”

In Germany, most inmates get out after serving two-thirds of their term. Getting paroled after only half of a sentence is rare, but can be granted to first-time offenders with good behavior and who are deemed unlikely to commit crimes in the future.

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