NZ cargo case hots up

NEW Zealand’s investigation into cargo cartels is heating up with those charged either starting to defend themselves or announcing their cooperation.

Two airlines – British Airways and Qantas Airways – have agreed to cooperate in exchange for halving any penalties, while one, as yet unnamed, airline – has apparently offered to give evidence on the others for full immunity.

Air New Zealand has said it would defend itself from the allegations. In a statement, John Blair, lawyer for Air New Zealand said: “This is clearly an approach designed to justify [the Commission’s] existence and seems more about grandstanding than about getting to the bottom of the allegations.”

Emirates said: “Emirates denies the allegations and will be defending the proceedings.”

Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and SIA cargo have all also said that they will defend themselves from the charges.

New Zealand’s competition watchdog, the Commerce Commission, filed papers in the Auckland High Court late last year against: Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cargolux International Airlines, Cathay Pacific, PT Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines, Malaysian Airline System, Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines Cargo and Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and United Airlines.

The Commission claims that 60 airlines, of which these 13 were the main instigators, made an illegal global agreement in 1999 to 2000, with the support of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), to raise the price of freighting cargo by imposing surcharges for fuel and added security measures for more than nine years.

Paula Rebstock, chair of the Commerce Commission said, “Anti-cartel enforcement activity is a priority for the Commission [and] participation in cartel activity is internationally regarded as one of the most egregious forms of anti-competitive behaviour.”

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