Monday, May 10, 2010

British Airways price-fixing trial collapses

British Airways price-fixing trial collapses

The trial of three former British Airways employees and one current member of staff over allegations of price-fixing has collapsed at Southwark Crown Court.

Prosecuting QC Richard Latham told the judge he would offer “no evidence” in the trial, after questions were raised over the prosecution’s case on Friday.

Addressing the court Mr Justice Owen suggested he had considered “whether the manifest failures on the part of the prosecution are such as to render a fair trial impossible”.

The four have been on trail since April.

BA’s head of sales Andrew Crawley, ex-commercial director Martin George, ex-communications head Iain Burns and ex-UK and Irish Republic sales chief Alan Burnett all denied the allegations.

Mr George and Mr Burns resigned from BA in 2006, while Mr Burnett retired in the same year.

Mr Crawley remains in his role.

Virgin Atlantic

The charges relate to price-fixing over a period of 18 months between July 1st 2004, and April 20th 2006, when fuel surcharges rose from £5 to £60 for a typical long-haul return ticket.

The court had earlier heard the four defendants agreed with each other and sources at Virgin Atlantic “to make and implement agreements which would lead, and which in fact did lead, to price-fixing”.

However, the court was told on Monday the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) had failed to disclose information to the defence.

The undisclosed material includes e-mails sent or received by Paul Moore, one of the former employees of Virgin Atlantic Airways, whose evidence the jury was due to start hearing today.

It is believed the material suggested Virgin Atlantic had increased fuel surcharges without consulting British Airways.

Defending of the accused executives William Boyce QC, argued had this e-mail come to light earlier the case may never have come to court.

The four defendants were acquitted by the jury.

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