A Volkswagen engineer has received a stiffer-than-expected sentence for his role in the Dieselgate saga – James Liang has been slapped with a 40-month sentence and a US$200,000 (RM853,032) fine for his role in the emissions scandal which has blighted the German automaker group over the past two years.

Liang, 63, is the first person in the scandal sentenced to federal prison, according to The Detroit News. He helped devise the software for the emissions defeat devices, and subsequently struck a plea deal with prosecutors in September for his help in unraveling the scandal.

“It sends a very strong message to them that they better stay safely in Germany. We haven’t seen many individuals being held responsible for corporate misconduct, so this is one of those rare cases,” said Peter Henning, Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.

The sentence meted out was harsher than even the prosecutors recommended, which was for a three-year sentence and a $20,000 (RM85,303) fine. The tough sentence makes it more likely that VW executives indicted earlier this year will remain in Germany in order to avoid further action, the report added.

“The conspiracy perpetrated a massive and stunning fraud on the American consumer that attacked and destroyed the very foundation of our economic system. Your cooperation and regret is noted, but it doesn’t excuse your conduct,” Cox told engineer Liang.

Aiding the company’s recovery process will be the Strategy 2025 vision it unveiled in the middle of last year, which will see the company invest billions in the coming years into electrification, autonomous driving and mobility services.