FILE GERMANY VOLKSWAGEN.jpg
Photograph: EPA/JULIAN STRATENSCHULTE

Volkswagen will admit guilt and pay 4.3 billion dollars in criminal and civil settlements to the US government over the German carmaker's cheating on diesel emissions, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday.

"Today's actions reflect the Justice Department's steadfast commitment to protecting consumers, to protecting the environment and our financial system, and holding individuals and companies accountable for corporate wrongdoing," Lynch said.

She also announced the indictment of six current and former high-ranking Volkswagen personnel for crimes including conspiracy to defraud the US, violations of environmental laws, and wire fraud.

VW will pay a 2.8-billion-dollar criminal fine and plead guilty to three criminal felony counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States and US customers and violate environmental laws; obstructing justice by destroying scandal-related documents; and importing cars using false statements.

Under the settlement terms VW will also pay 1.5 billion dollars to resolve civil claims of violation of environmental, customs and financial laws.

VW will be placed on three years' probation, pay for independent ethics and compliance monitoring and cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the individuals responsible for these crimes.

An outline of the deal had been revealed by the carmaker on Tuesday. In a statement Wednesday, VW chief executive Matthias Mueller called the deal an "important step forward for our company and all our employees."

"Volkswagen deeply regrets the behaviour that gave rise to the diesel crisis. We will continue to press forward with changes to our way of thinking and working," he said.

The deal settles VW's corporate criminal responsibility, Lynch said, but the investigation into individuals responsible for the crimes remains ongoing.

One of the indicted employees, an executive who oversaw US environmental compliance, was in court Monday in Miami after his arrest January 7.

The remaining five are believed to reside in Germany, the Justice Department said.

Another VW engineer is awaiting sentencing in the case after pleading guilty in US federal court to conspiracy.

"Individuals are being charged to show that serious crimes have serious consequences - both for the company and for the managers who cheat," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said.

"Our laws have teeth," she added.

Since admitting to installing emissions-cheating software in its vehicles in September 2015, Europe's largest carmaker has been in talks with customers and governments over compensation and damages for the software, which was installed on 11 million cars worldwide.

Volkswagen reached a deal in mid-2016 to compensate owners of 475,000 cars in the United States with 2-litre diesel engines. That agreement could cost VW 16.5 billion dollars.

The outlines of a similar settlement with owners of about 80,000 cars in the US with larger diesel engines were announced last month.

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