Senior VW managers warned not to travel
to U.S.: sources
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[January 13, 2017]
By Jörn Poltz and Andreas Cremer
MUNICH/BERLIN (Reuters) - Senior Volkswagen
<VOWG_p.DE> managers have been warned not to travel to the United
States, legal and company sources told Reuters, after six current and
former managers were indicted for their role in the German carmaker's
diesel test-cheating scheme.
One of the six charged, Oliver Schmidt, was arrested at Miami
International Airport on Saturday as he was about to fly home from
holiday in Cuba.
Schmidt, who is caught up in the "Dieselgate" investigation by the U.S.
Department of Justice (DoJ), was ordered to be charged and held without
bail on Thursday pending trial.
Under the constitution, German citizens can be extradited only to other
European Union countries or to an international court. But leaving
Germany at all could pose a risk of being extradited to the United
States from a third country.
"Several Volkswagen managers have been advised not to travel to the
United States," one legal adviser to Volkswagen said on condition of
anonymity because the matter is confidential.
A second legal adviser said this also applied to managers who had not
yet been charged with any offense in the United States. "One doesn't
need to test the limits," the adviser said.
Schmidt was among those who had been warned by lawyers working for the
company not to travel to the United States, one of the legal sources
Volkswagen declined to comment.
The company agreed to pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal fines in a
settlement with the DoJ on Wednesday, the largest ever U.S. penalty
levied on an automaker. However, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the
DoJ would continue to pursue "the individuals responsible for
orchestrating this damaging conspiracy".
The German Federal Criminal Police Office said it was not aware of any
request to extradite the other five indicted VW managers, while the
Justice Ministry said it could not comment on individual cases.
Interpol said it did not comment on specific cases or individuals except
in special circumstances and with approval of the member country
Given the risk of extradition from a third country, a reluctance to let
senior managers leave Germany at all could pose considerable
difficulties for Europe's biggest carmaker, which employs more than
600,000 people worldwide and sells 88 percent of its vehicles outside
its home country.
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An American flag flies next to a Volkswagen car dealership in San
Diego, California, U.S. September 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File
Only one board member traveled to this week's auto show in Detroit:
VW passenger car brand chief Herbert Diess, who joined Volkswagen in
July 2015, just two-and-a-half months before the VW's decade-long
deception of U.S. authorities became public.
A senior manager at the VW brand who asked not to be named called
Diess's decision to travel to Detroit "bold" and said his peers had
been given guidance not to leave Germany as the risk of impending
U.S. charges rose - although he would not go so far as to call it a
He said colleagues knew after being questioned by Jones Day lawyers,
who are carrying out an independent internal investigation into the
emissions affair, whether they had something to fear in the United
States, and may have used this to determine travel plans.
Charles Kuhn, a partner at criminal law firm Hickman & Rose, said
people in such a position faced "a harsh choice - voluntarily hand
themselves in, or never leave Germany without fear that an
international arrest warrant will land them in US custody anyway".
"It's the kind of impossible decision that leaves people holed up in
embassies for years," he said. "It depends on the alleged offense,
but it is sometimes better to face the music than to live in the
shadow of the DoJ."
(Additional reporting by Edward Taylor and Georgina Prodhan in
Frankfurt and Zachary Fagenson in Miami; editing by David Stamp)
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