Asiana Airlines (OZ, Seoul Incheon) has lodged a lawsuit against former executives of the Swiss onboard caterer and retailer Gategroup for allegedly conspiring with Park Sam-koo, ex-chairman of the airline’s parent Kumho Asiana Group, in cutting the price it paid in 2016 for the exclusive rights to serve inflight meals until 2047 to KRW133.3 billion won (USD104.5 million).

It filed the criminal complaint, for breach of trust in relation to the exclusive 30-year deal, at the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office in March, sources told local media.

It has been speculated that the deal was forged in return for the Swiss firm’s purchase of KRW160 billion (USD126 million) worth of bonds and warrants which Asiana Airlines issued for liquidity-challenged sister ground-transport specialist Kumho Buslines.

Park was arrested in May 2021 for allegedly overseeing these and other transactions between affiliates within the Kumho Asiana conglomerate, yielding huge gains for him and his family. He remains on trial and will be sentenced next month.

Asiana Airlines believes that Gategroup colluded with Park, and it had already filed a civil lawsuit in January to nullify its 30-year inflight catering contract with the Swiss provider.

The two legal actions, criminal and civil, have been seen by observers as part of Asiana Airlines’ efforts to minimise any potential damage to Korean Air (KE, Seoul Incheon), which has been pushing ahead with its planned acquisition of its rival, according to local media. Asiana has confirmed the lawsuits but has declined to comment on any ongoing litigation. At that time, the exclusive rights were believed to be worth around KRW500 billion (USD393 million).