After a decade of evading justice, a former Senior Vice President (Cargo Sales and Marketing) at Martinair (MP, Amsterdam Schiphol), has been extradited to the United States to face charges related to allegedly participating in a price-fixing cartel, the US Department of Justice has announced in a press release.

Dutch national Maria Christina “Meta” Ullings was originally indicted by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in 2010. She was arrested while visiting Sicily in July. She had tried to prevent extradition, but Italy rejected her objections and she arrived in the US on January 10, making her initial appearance in the district court on January 13.

"Ullings was indicted for participating in a long-running worldwide conspiracy to fix prices of air cargo," the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement dated January 13.

"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 US antitrust laws and seek to evade justice will find no place to hide," Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division declared in the statement.

According to the indictment, Ullings conspired with others to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing and coordinating surcharges, including those for fuel, charged to customers in the United States and elsewhere for cargo shipments.

These shipments included heavy equipment, perishable commodities, and consumer goods destined for American customers and shipped by American producers, according to the DOJ. Ullings allegedly participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as January 2001 until at least February 2006.

Including Ullings, a total of 22 airlines and 21 executives have now been charged in the department’s investigations into price fixing in the air transportation industry. More than USD1.8 billion in criminal fines have been imposed and seven executives have been sentenced to serve prison time.

Ullings is charged with violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a USD1 million fine for individuals. However, this fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime.

In June 2008, the DOJ revealed that Martinair's parent Air France-KLM, Cathay Pacific, Martinair itself, and SAS Scandinavian Airlines had participated in a cargo price-fixing cartel over several years. Pleading guilty, collectively the carriers were fined USD504 million. Other airlines were also caught up in the case. In 2010, and then again in 2017 after a legal challenge, the European Commission fined 11 airlines almost EUR800 million euros (USD892 million) for participation in the same air cargo cartel.