24 January 2017
On January 7, 2017, Oliver Schmidt, a German citizen and former general manager of Volkswagen's U.S. Engineering and Environmental Office, was unexpectedly arrested at Miami International Airport shortly before he was scheduled to board a flight to Germany. Following his arrest, a criminal complaint was unsealed, charging Schmidt with several offenses in connection with the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Schmidt's arrest, which came just days before the United States Department of Justice announced a $4.3 billion settlement of the criminal investigation into Volkswagen and unsealed charges against several other Volkswagen executives, exemplifies the increasing focus by the DOJ on prosecuting non-U.S. citizens in connection with alleged corporate wrongdoing. While grand jury investigations in the United States are confidential, and indictments are typically returned under seal, counsel for individuals who may be the subject of or otherwise involved in an investigation can often gain insight into the focus and progress of the investigation through direct inquiry with the appropriate authorities.