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British Airways Fuel Levy Antitrust Fine Cut to $94 Million

April 19 (Bloomberg) -- IAG’s British Airways unit had a U.K. fine for colluding to fix passenger fuel surcharges with Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. cut by more than half to 58.5 million pounds ($94 million).

The amended penalty from the Office of Fair Trading is lower than a 121.5 million-pound sum imposed in 2007 because of legal changes and the fact that BA’s assistance wasn’t properly reflected in the original penalty, the antitrust regulator said.

The watchdog had accused British Airways of scheming with Virgin Atlantic to fix fuel surcharges on trans-Atlantic flights from July 2004 through April 2006. A criminal trial against four former and current BA executives collapsed in 2010 amid problems with evidence, including corrupted e-mails.

“The size of the fine underlines that it is important for companies to take steps to ensure that they have an effective compliance culture,” Ali Nikpay, the OFT’s senior director of cartels and criminal enforcement, said today in a statement. “The fine would have been higher still but for the co-operation provided by BA throughout the OFT’s investigation.”

British Airways is “pleased that this matter which concerned events between 2004 and 2006, has been settled,” according to a statement from the company.

IAG were little changed at to 170.60 pence at 9:53 a.m. in London trading.

Virgin Atlantic is also satisfied “that a final determination has been reached,” the company said in a statement. It wasn’t penalized because it brought the matter to the OFT’s attention in 2006.

British Airways was also fined 104 million euros ($137 million) by the European Commission in 2010 for coordinating air-cargo fuel and security surcharges with other airlines. It is challenging that penalty in the EU courts.

BA merged with Spain’s Iberia in January to form International Consolidated Airlines Group SA.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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