A former Dutch airline executive was arrested in Italy and has been extradited to the USA over conspiracy charges to fix prices on airline cargo routes.
Maria Christina Ullings served for many years as the Senior Vice President of Cargo Sales and Marketing for Martinair, a Dutch cargo airline. For a period spanning at least 2001 t0 2006, she is accused of taking part in as scheme to fix cargo pricing and undermine competition. Specifically, Ullings (and several other airline executives) are accused of fixing fuel surcharges in contravention of U.S. law.
10 years ago Ullings was indicated by the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She refused to appear in court and has been on the run in Europe ever since.
In July, she was caught by Italian authorities while vacationing in Sicily. She fought extradition vehemently in court, but ultimately decided to drop her appeal after the Court of Appeals of Palermo ruled she must be extradited. Earlier this month she was transported to the USA and made her first court appearance in Atlanta earlier this week.
In order to extradite to the USA, there must be an extradition treaty on the books and the act must be of “dual criminality”, meaning the alleged offense is a criminal violation in both countries. As ironic as it is that she was caught in Sicily, Italy does have both an extradition treaty with the USA and criminal cartel laws.
In a press release on the case, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said:
“This extradition ruling by the Italian courts – the seventh country to extradite a defendant in an Antitrust Division case in recent years, and the second to do so based solely on an antitrust charge – demonstrates that those who violate U.S. antitrust laws and seek to evade justice will find no place to hide. The Division appreciates the cooperation of the Italian authorities in this matter. With the assistance of our law enforcement colleagues at home and around the world, the Division will aggressively pursue every avenue available in bringing price fixers to justice.”
Ullings is not the only one to come under DOJ scrutiny. 22 airlines and 21 airline executives have been charged for cargo pricing fixing in what has become a long-standing case at the DOJ. Nearly $2BN in fines have been levied over this. Other colluders include Air France-KLM, Cathay Pacific, and SAS Cargo. All pleaded guilty and paid a fine.
Ullings faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. While unlikely she will receive the maximum sentence, her decade-long disappearing act won’t help her defense.
Now why can’t the DOJ go after airlines for their bogus “fuel surcharges” on award tickets?
image: Maarten Visser / Wikimedia Commons