A grand jury in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on Tuesday indicted a former executive of Japan Airlines International and two former executives of Nippon Cargo Airlines for participating in a conspiracy to fix rates for air cargo shipments to and from the United States, the Department of Justice announced today.
The U.S. Department of Justice charged Takao Fukuchi, former president of JAL Cargo Sales, and Yoshio Kunugi and Naoshige Makino, both former senior executives for Nippon Cargo Airlines, with conspiring with others to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing and coordinating certain components of cargo rates charged to customers for international air shipments to and from the United States.
Fukuchi and Kunugi are charged with entering into and participating in the conspiracy from at least as early as December 1999 until at least February 2006. Makino is charged with joining and participating in the conspiracy from at least as early as June 2001 until at least February 2006.
They are charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty for each individual of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
The indictments follow charges announced last month against the top two executives at Cargolux, making the freight airline CEO Ulrich Ogiermann the highest ranking official so far to face individual charges in the global antitrust investigation.
To date, a total of 19 airlines and 17 executives, including Fukuchi, Kunugi and Makino, have been charged in the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into air cargo price fixing. More than $1.7 billion in criminal fines have been imposed and four executives have been sentenced to serve prison time. Charges are pending against 13 executives, including Fukuchi, Kunugi and Makino.
The new indictments suggested an expanded time frame for the investigation. The Justice Department said in the indictment that Fukuchi and Kunugi took part in a conspiracy starting in December 1999, while investigators have charged collusion among most other airlines and executives began in 2001 or 2002.
The three former executives did not appear in Atlanta and reportedly are in Japan. The Justice Department did not say whether it is seeking their extradition.
A related investigation by the European Commission on Nov. 9 imposed another $1.1 billion in fines on 11 airlines for the same conspiracy.
Major airlines involved in the probe include British Airways, Korean Air Lines, Qantas Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Air France and EL AL Israel Airlines Ltd.
-- Contact Thomas L. Gallagher at email@example.com.