Guilty: VW veteran takes plea deal, cooperates with criminal investigation

The former VW engineer had been accused of playing a key role in developing the emissions cheat.

A former Volkswagen engineer has reportedly pled guilty to charges of conspiracy and Clean Air Act violations, kicking off an expected series of criminal prosecutions related to the TDI emissions scandal.

The VW veteran, James Liang, is said to be cooperating with federal investigators, suggesting he may be asked to testify against other former colleagues. Prosecutors have not yet publicly identified other individuals that could face charges.

A Wall Street Journal report suggests a separate lawsuit accused Liang of playing a key role in developing the emissions cheat.

"He is one of many at Volkswagen who got caught up in this emissions scandal and he is very remorseful for what took place," his attorney reportedly said at the plea hearing.

Engineers directly involved in crafting the 'defeat device' may be the easiest targets for prosecution, however investigators are undoubtedly exploring potential illegal actions among current or former managers and executives.

Liang's plea agreement is said to include an admission that his team designed the illegal software after realizing that the engine "could not meet both customer expectations as well as new, stricter US emissions standards."

VW earlier this year backpedaled on its promise to release results from its internal investigation, handled by outside firm Jones Day. The company suggested early disclosure could negatively impact its ongoing settlement negotiations.

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