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By Nick Carey and David Shepardson
DETROIT/WASHINGTON, March 16 A federal judge in
Detroit on Thursday ordered that a Volkswagen AG executive
charged in the automaker's diesel emissions scandal be detained
until his trial set for next year, agreeing with prosecutors
that the German national represented a flight risk.
Oliver Schmidt, who was chief of Volkswagen's
environmental and engineering center in Michigan, has been held
since January when he was arrested in Miami trying to return to
Germany. Schmidt is one of seven current and former executives
charged in the U.S. emissions probe..
"The allegations of fraud and conspiracy in this case are
very, very serious," said Judge Sean Cox of the U.S. District
Court for Eastern Michigan. "There is a serious risk that Mr.
Schmidt will not appear in this case."
Last week, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to three felony counts
under a plea agreement to resolve U.S. charges it installed
secret software in vehicles to beat emissions tests.
The ruling on Thursday came despite pleas from family and
friends, including Schmidt's parents, who offered a combined
$1.6 million in assets such as property and cash to pay his
The defense had asked that Schmidt, who appeared in court in
handcuffs and a fluorescent orange prison jumpsuit, be confined
to his home and wear a GPS tracking device.
Defense attorney David DuMouchel said Schmidt had been open
about his travel plans to the United States prior to his arrest,
despite knowing he could be charged.
"This is hardly the action of someone who was trying to
avoid the jurisdiction" of the United States," DuMouchel said.
"All he had to do was stay home."
But an assistant U.S. attorney, John Neal, told the court
that Schmidt has few ties to the United States and would face
stiffer penalties if tried here instead of in Germany. Neal
noted the German constitution does not allow German citizens to
be extradited to other countries.
Schmidt could flee and "take his chances in Germany, where
the sentence he faces would be significantly less," Neal said.
Schmidt's trial is due to begin on Jan. 16, 2018. He is
charged with eleven felony counts and could face up to 169 years
(Reporting by Nick Carey in Detroit; Writing by David
Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)