German car manufacturer VW has pleaded guilty to three criminal charges in the U.S all related to emission test cheating.

The car maker will pay $4.3bn in fines.  $2.8bn is criminal fines, while $1.5bn is civil penalties.

Six VW executives and managers have been charged over the part they played in the emissions test cheating.

According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), VW had a long-running scheme to sell about 590,000 diesel vehicles all fitted with defeat devices.  These devices were there to give false lower emission readings when tested.

As a result VW will be on probation for three years and overseen by independent monitoring.  VW has agreed to cooperate with the DoJ’s investigations and the prosecution of six executives involved in the scandal.

VW has pleaded guilty to “participating in a conspiracy to defraud,” breaking “the clean air act” and “obstruction of justice.”

To try and avoid being discovered VW destroyed documents and gave “false statements about the vehicles’ compliance with emissions limits”.

In Europe the company faces investor and consumer lawsuits.

VW has agreed $15bn civil settlements with environmental authorities and car owners in America.

As well as VW receiving hefty fines, six executives are facing criminal charges.  American prosecutors believe the scandal could go deeper into VW.  Oliver Schmidt was arrested while on holiday in Florida over the weekend, charged with conspiracy to defraud.  He was VW’s environmental regulatory compliance officer from 2012 to 2015.

The scandal broke in 2015 when US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered the defeat devices in VW’s cars.  These devices could tell when they were being tested and adjusted their performance to give a better result.

VW were quick to concede that the devices were fitted in many of their vehicles sold throughout the world.

According to U.S court papers VW executives knew about the emissions cheating two months before it was discovered but chose to keep quiet about it.