Rio de Janeiro, Aug 29 (EFE).- Brazil's CADE economic court on Thursday fined four airlines a total of more than 293 million reais ($124 million) for forming a price-fixing cartel.
One of the sanctioned companies is ABSA Aerolineas Brasileiras, which now operates under the name TAM Cargo and is part of the LATAM Airlines Group, the result of the 2012 merger of Brazil's TAM Airlines and Chile's LAN Airlines.
Varig Logistica, a Sao-Paulo-based cargo airline that suspended its operations last year and declared bankruptcy; Texas-based American Airlines; and Italy's Alitalia also were slapped with fines.
CADE found the companies and seven of their employees guilty of forming an international air-cargo cartel that fixed the price and date of fuel surcharges on freight shipments.
The court said no evidence was found of that Chicago-based United Airlines participated in the cartel.
"The exchange of information (among the companies) was aimed at coordinating the application of the fuel surcharge, but it also affected the end price of air cargo transport service, since the value of that additional charge was a substantial part" of the total, CADE's Ricardo Machado Ruiz said.
The cartel operated in Brazil between 2003 and 2005 and the participating companies gained control of nearly 60 percent of the market during that period, according to CADE.
The probe began in 2006 after Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Lufthansa Cargo AG and Swiss International Airlines signed a leniency deal with CADE. Those airlines escaped punishment thanks to their cooperation in the investigation.
In February, Air France-KLM acknowledged its participation in the cartel and agreed to pay a fine of nearly 14 million reais ($6 million).