Japan Airlines admits price-fixing, agrees to $110M fine

Washington (AP) - Japan Airlines International Co. Ltd. on Wednesday became the fourth foreign airline to admit to price-fixing and agree to pay a multimillion-dollar fine to the U.S. government.

The Tokyo-based carrier agreed to pay a $110 million criminal fine for its role in a conspiracy to fix rates for international cargo shipments, the U.S. Justice Department said. According to charges filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Japan Airlines sought to eliminate competition by fixing the rates for international shipments of cargo to and from the U.S. and elsewhere from April 2000 to February 2006.

During that time, the airline was the largest carrier of cargo between the U.S. and Japan, and earned almost $2 billion from its cargo flights between the two countries. Japan Airlines' parent JAL Group issued a statement saying it had set aside money for a fine last November, and "will determinedly continue to expand and reinforce its current antitrust compliance program."

Under a plea agreement that is subject to court approval, Japan Airlines also has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department's ongoing investigation, which already has yielded guilty pleas from and fines against British Airways PLC, Korean Air Lines Co. Ltd. and Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd.

British Airways and Korean Air each agreed to pay $300 million fines; Qantas agreed to pay $61 million. Qantas' chief executive said in November that U.S. and foreign antitrust regulators were investigating up to 30 airlines for similar conduct.

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