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By Jörn Poltz and Andreas Cremer
MUNICH/BERLIN Jan 13 Senior Volkswagen
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 offence 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 said.
Volkswagen declined to comment.
GRAPHIC - VW emissions affair: tmsnrt.rs/2fYcm9Q
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
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 concerned.
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.
Only one board member travelled 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 "travel warning".
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
"It's the kind of impossible decision that leaves people
holed up in embassies for years," he said. "It depends on the
alleged offence, 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)