Volkswagen manager sentenced to seven years prison over emissions scandal

A judge has sentenced a Volkswagen senior manager to seven years in prison today, for covering up a scheme to evade pollution limits on US diesel vehicles, calling it an astonishing fraud on American consumers.

Oliver Schmidt, who is the second person to be sent to prison over the scandal, was dispatched to the US from Germany in 2015 to meet with suspicious California regulators.

But he didn't disclose rogue software that had long fooled authorities into believing that VW was meeting emissions rules on nearly 600,000 vehicles.

He also misled American investigators and destroyed documents.

"I'm sure, based upon common sense, that you viewed this cover-up as an opportunity to shine — to climb the corporate ladder at VW," U.S. District Judge Sean Cox said. "Your goal was to impress senior management."

The judge called Schmidt, who had led VW's engineering and environmental office in Michigan for three years, a "key conspirator" in the deception.

"Without trust in corporate America," Cox said, "the economy can't function."

The diesel vehicles were programmed to trigger certain pollution results only during testing, not during regular road use. The plan was hatched in 2006, and the vehicles were marketed as "clean diesel." Justice Department prosecutor Ben Singer called it the "height of irony."

Schmidt, 48, was arrested in Miami in January while trying to return to Germany after a vacation. He's been in custody without bond.

"For the disruption of my life, I only have to blame myself. ... I accept the responsibility for the wrong I committed," Schmidt told the judge.

Engineer James Liang cooperated with the FBI and was sentenced to 40 months in prison last summer.

Six others at VW or Audi were charged, but they are in Germany and out of reach of US authorities. Among them is Heinz-Jakob Neusser, who was described as Schmidt's boss. He was head of engine development and, later, VW brand development.

VW pleaded guilty as a corporation in March and agreed to pay $US4.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties on top of billions more to buy back cars.

Schmidt's lawyer, David DuMouchel, argued that his sentence should be identical to Liang's, noting that his role only heated up in 2015 in the last months of the scheme.

But Judge Singer noted that Schmidt still was a major player at key events and purposely "lied and deceived."

"He could have made a lot of different choices," Judge Singer said.

Volkswagen New Zealand’s General Manager Tom Ruddenklau says he’s disappointed with the company’s deception. Source: 1 NEWS

Corrections tell court man who raped girl should not be released into community

Violent rapist Mark David Chisnall has listened in as High Court lawyers debated whether he posed too great a risk to be released back into the community or not.

The 31-year-old was 14 when he raped an 8-year-old girl in a park in a small Taranaki town and has also been convicted of sexual attacks on a 7-year-old boy and a woman aged in her 20s.

He finished his jail term in April last year, but has since been detained under interim detention.

Today, Justice Edwin Wylie listened to submissions from lawyers representing the Corrections Department and Chisnall, who appeared via video link.

Corrections have called for Chisnall to be further detained under a public protection order to prevent him from re-offending.

His lawyer Tony Ellis argued Chisnall should be released on strict conditions under an extended supervision order.

Chisnall has been in detention at Christchurch Men's Prison since finishing his sentence at Paremoremo Prison in Auckland.

Corrections were forced to seek his interim detention after making their application for a public protection order against him too close to the end of his official prison sentence.

Chisnall appealed the legality of the interim detention but had this dismissed by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias in the Supreme Court in August.

She agreed with health professionals that Chisnall posed a "very high risk of imminent serious sexual or violent offending" if he was released before a hearing could be held into his long term future.

"He has limited self-control, absence of concern for victims and poor interpersonal relationships," she said.

Justice Wylie is expected to announce his judgment about whether Chisnall should be detained under a public protection order before Christmas.



Stench of sea lettuce worst it's been in years, says Tauranga Harbour residents

Residents who live near Tauranga Harbour say the stink emanating from sea lettuce is the worst it's been in years.

The Tauranga Harbour's warmer waters combined with its depth and nutrients, make it a perfect home for the blooming algae.

Rebecca Joy-Lawton from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council says when all those factors align blooms of sea lettuce "accumulate" and can be a "bit of a nuisance".

The Tauranga District Council and the Regional Council spend $60,000 removing the dead algae from beaches.

But Carma Cunningham, a resident who lives on Beach Road, says the smell is getting "worse".

"It just hits you and after awhile you can even smell it in your house and as you walk out the door", she says.

The regional council says it's been monitoring sea lettuce since 1991 and although there has been some spikes, it says sea lettuce levels and nutrient levels are stable.

Tauranga Harbour