Thai Airways has been fined $7.5 million for its part in a global air-freight cartel, taking the amount airlines including Qantas have been penalised for in Australia for the illegal activity to almost $100 million.
The Asian airline is the 13th airline to have copped fines in Australia after admitting to have taken part in the cartel which involved fixing rates for air freight on international routes.
A Federal Court judge described Thai Airways’ actions as ‘‘deliberate, systematic conduct involving senior staff’’ at its operations in Indonesia.
As part of the settlement in the Federal Court in Sydney, the airline admitted to reaching deals to fix prices for fuel and security surcharges, and a customs fee, for air freight between Indonesia and Australia.
On top of the $7.5 million fine, Thai Airways has been ordered to pay $500,000 in court costs.
Earlier this month Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific were fined $11.75 million and $11.25 million respectively for their part in the cartel.
The penalty imposed on Thai Airways takes the total amount airlines have been fined in Australia for taking part in the cartel to $98.5 million. It is the highest amount in fines from a single investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
In October, Emirates was fined $10 million for fixing fuel prices, a security surcharge and a customs fee on freight carried from Indonesia to Australia and other countries between October 2001 and May 2006.
The ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said the latest judgment sent a ‘‘strong signal to the business community that cartel conduct will not be tolerated’’.
The biggest scalp from the competition regulator’s four-year investigation and subsequent legal pursuit has been Qantas, which was fined $20 million in 2008.
The amount of fines Qantas has copped worldwide has totalled more than $105 million, which included $US61 million in the US in 2007 after it pleaded guilty to fixing air-cargo rates.
The Australian regulator still has legal action under way in the Federal Court against Air New Zealand and Garuda Indonesia.
The global cartel originated in 1996, when at least 17 airlines, including Qantas, introduced freight levies on air cargo to counter rising jet fuel costs.