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Two More Senior Executives Plead Guilty to Defrauding Cargo Airline And Will Pay the Company More Than $55 Million in Restitution

Two More Senior Executives Plead Guilty to Defrauding Cargo Airline And Will Pay the Company More Than $55 Million in Restitution

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Two more senior executives of a leading cargo airline which operates a fleet of 22 Boeing 747 and 777 freighter aircraft have pleaded guilty to conspiring in a massive scheme to defraud the New York-based company.

Lars Winkelbauer, Polar Air Cargo’s former chief operating officer and Abilash Kurien, who once held the position of vice president of international cargo, entered guilty pleas on Thursday and will be sentenced in May and July, respectively.

After pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, the two men have already agreed to pay more than $13 million in forfeiture and more than $55 million in restitution.

In addition to the massive financial penalties, the two men each face up to five years imprisonment.

Prosecutors allege that Winkelbauer and Kurien were part of a group of senior executives who participated in a scheme together to defraud Polar Air Cargo starting in at least 2009 until July 2021 when the fraud was eventually uncovered.

Like many schemes of its kind, the defendants had agreed to accept millions of dollars in kickbacks from vendors who received favourable business arrangements with Polar Air Cargo.

Senior executives at the airline received more than £23 million in kickbacks during the length of the fraud.

“To date, nine individuals have pled guilty, including Lars Winkelbauer and Abilash Kurien, two top executives who have confessed today and are poised to face time in prison for their betrayal of the company’s trust and that of the wider community,” commented U.S. Attorney Damian Williams on Thursday.

“Wire fraud and money laundering are not merely financial crimes; they erode faith in institutions, undermine economic stability, and harm innocent individuals and businesses,” Williams continued.

Polar Air Cargo was founded in 1993, but it was sold to Atlas Air Worldwide in 2001 before DHL took a stake in the carrier a few years later. Winkelbauer was living in Thailand when he was tracked down and arrested by prosecutors last year.

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