WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) — Volkswagen has agreed to pay 4.3 billion U.S. dollars in criminal and civil penalties to settle its emissions cheating scandal involving about 590,000 diesel vehicles in the United States, the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday.

The department said in a statement that the German company has agreed to plead guilty to participating in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. by "lying and misleading" the country's regulators about whether certain Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche branded diesel vehicles complied with U.S. emissions standards.

Volkswagen has also agreed to plead guilty to charges of destroying documents related to the scheme and a separate crime of importing these cars into the U.S. by means of false statements about the vehicles' compliance with emissions limits, it said.

Furthermore, the department announced six of the German company's high-level executives have also been indicted by a federal grand jury in Michigan for their roles in the conspiracy that lasted for nearly a decade.

These sanctions are in addition to a 15-billion-dollar civil settlement Volkswagen has previously reached with U.S. regulators and car owners, under which the company agreed to offer consumers a buyback and lease termination for nearly 500,000 diesel vehicles sold or leased in the United States.

"Volkswagen's attempts to dodge emissions standards and import falsely certified vehicles into the country represent an egregious violation of our nation's environmental, consumer protection and financial laws," Attorney General Lynch said.

"In the days ahead, we will continue to examine Volkswagen's attempts to mislead consumers and deceive the government. And we will continue to pursue the individuals responsible for orchestrating this damaging conspiracy."

Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to have programmed diesel vehicles to turn on emission controls during legally mandated tests and turn them off while on the road, emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide.

Worldwide, about 11 million vehicles were installed with the device to fool tests.