US – Sadly some of our best read stories concern the criminal activities of the few freight forwarding executives who are prepared to break the law in order to turn a profit. As times get harder financially the line between fair competition and conspiracy blurs for some as evidenced by the surge in anti trust cases prosecuted globally which we have witnessed in the past two years. Some acts however are blatantly criminal and this week two cases concerning the cargo screening and shipping of air freight have resulted in the prosecution and punishment of several individuals and companies involved in nefarious activities.

The first case concerns the arrest and detention of Ulrich Davis aged 50 who was caught as he tried to board a flight to the Netherlands at Newark Liberty International Airport last August. Davis, a Dutch national, pleaded guilty this week to charges of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transactions Regulations by misdeclaring chemicals and aircraft parts destined for Iran.

Evidence against Davis was overwhelming in that e mails he had sent to another company made it plain he knew what he was doing was illegal. The items concerned were suspected to be for military use and one of the consignees were allegedly described as ‘C-130 Red Crescent’ seemingly implying the supplies were for a section of the International Red Cross. Observers have speculated that these were parts for C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft at least twelve of which are still in service with the Iranian air force.

Davis used his position as manager of a Netherlands based freight forwarder with a New Jersey office (we are not allowed to name the company) to issue and conspire with others to issue airwaybills showing false details, the nature of the goods being such that they constituted a threat to national security. Because of his guilty plea Davis will avoid the maximum term of twenty years imprisonment but is likely to receive a five year term plus a fine up to a quarter of a million dollars when sentenced.

In the second case three employees of OHL (part of Ozburn-Hessey Logistics, LLC), a subsidiary previously being known as ActivAir and one of the world’s largest third party logistics providers, have each pleaded guilty following a federal investigation. The three confessed to failing to screen cargo due to load on passenger flights despite strict regulations as to how the procedure should be undertaken.

The offences occurred at the company’s Fortune Circle premises at Indianapolis Airport and once again penalties could be up to five years in prison with quarter of a million dollar fines for each defendant. Mitchell Totty, Brian Vanhandel and Andrew Barnes are each accused of conspiring together to violate the law instituted in 2010 which insists on accurate records regarding screened cargo following incidents when bombs were discovered whilst being carried as freight aboard passenger aircraft in Dubai and the UK.

OHL has fully cooperated with the authorities and accepted responsibility for its employees behaviour but the admission led to the company receiving a record fine of $1 million for the offences and U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett commented the safety of the travelling public was paramount and that there could be no tolerance for shortcuts when matters of national security were involved.