Eleven airlines fined in Swiss cargo cartel probe

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Switzerland's competition regulator has fined a group of 11 airline companies a total of SwFr11 million ($12 million) over their participation in air cargo cartel activity.

The Competition Commission says that the carriers agreed freight rates and fuel surcharges, as well as fees for war risk and US customs clearance.

It describes such anti-competitive behaviour as a "serious infringement" of regulations governing international trade.

Lufthansa acted as a whistleblower and, as such, received immunity from the penalties, as did its subsidiary Swiss International Air Lines.

But 11 other operators - British Airways, Air France-KLM, Cargolux, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Scandinavian Airlines, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Atlas Air, American Airlines, and United-Continental - were sanctioned.

The first five of these companies submitted applications for leniency, says the regulator, and benefited from "substantial reductions" in the fines.

Investigation into the cartel focused on pricing agreements made by the airlines between 2000 and 2005. The commission says the large number of air transport agreements with third-party countries resulted in a highly complex probe.