Strike three for cargo cartel

QANTAS Airways became the third airline this year to admit to airfreight price-fixing and agree to pay a multi-million-dollar fine to the US government.

The Australian carrier is guilty of fixing airfreight rates for shipments to and from the US and elsewhere from at least January 2000 through February 2006.

Under the plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, Qantas has agreed to pay a $61 million fine.

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon apologised for the illegal conduct, which he said involved fuel surcharges in the airline’s freight division. The company’s financial statements include a $40 million provision for the US case, and “we do not believe this or any further financial penalties will materially affect future operating results”, he said.

Four former and two current Qantas employees have been excluded from the plea agreement and the Justice Department has reserved the right to investigate further. The two current Qantas employees “deny involvement in any illegal conduct”, Dixon said.

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