US of America flag behind a steel wire mesh. 3d illustration
© Tzogia Kappatou

Meta Ullings, former executive of Martinair, is to serve eight months in a US prison after pleading guilty to antitrust violations.

Ms Ullings was in court on Friday, reportedly in chains and a prison uniform, where a judge sentenced her to 14 months, but added a “six-month variance” to account for the time she was detained in Italy pending extradition.

The court recommended she serve her time at FCI Tallahassee in Florida, a low-security mixed-gender prison.

Ms Ullings has also been fined $20,000, payable in two weeks.

In a move that has deeply saddened many in the air cargo industry, Ms Ullings was apprehended by the Italian authorities in Sicily in July. She had been indicted in September 2010 for alleged involvement in air cargo price-fixing. Ms Ullings, a Dutch national, contested extradition, but lost her case in the Italian court of appeal.

It is only the second time that a foreigner has been extradited to the US solely on criminal antitrust charges, according to law website Mondaq.

The US has been unable to extradite people for antitrust violations unless there is an extradition treaty and “dual criminality” – if the alleged crime is also a crime in the extradition country. Very few nations have criminalised cartel law, but the number is rising, doubling in the past 30 years.

More than half of the EU member states and the BRICS nations, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have criminalised cartel conduct in some form. But, as in the case of Ms Ullings, any limitation in the home country’s laws does not protect people travelling in other countries, as was the case with Ms Ullings when she was arrested in Italy.

The air cargo industry has reacted to the sentence with anger and sadness.

“I really hate the DoJ,” said one executive. “I hope they rot in hell.”

To read about a prison experience, click here.

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