Former Polar Air Cargo Executives Arrested Over Fraud

Former Polar Air Cargo Executives Arrested Over Fraud

DALLAS – Four former senior executives of Polar Air Cargo Worldwide (PO) and six individuals who owned and operated various Polar vendors and customers have been charged with decade-long defrauding of the global cargo carrier.

According to a statement released by the Southern District of New York’s Attorney’s Office, from around 2009 until July 2021, Lars Winkelbauer, Abilash Kurien, Carlton Llewellyn, Robert Schirmer, Skye Xu, Benjamin Wei, Alvaro Lopez, Fabiola Cino, Orlando Wong, and Patrick Lau ‘participated in a massive scheme to defraud Polar.’

Arrests were made, and several defendants have since appeared in court. Winkelbauer was arrested in Thailand and now faces extradition to the United States. Xu has yet to be caught.

Polar Air Cargo N453PA Boeing 747-400F(SCD). Photo: Misael Ocasio Hernandez/Airways.

Millions of Dollars Worth of Kickback

The fraud saw millions of dollars of “kickbacks” handed to the defendants from vendors and customers involved with the company in return for ‘favorable business arrangements.’

These kickbacks, amounting to over US$23m, were then paid to the executives involved via limited liability companies controlled by those involved. This led to losses by Polar, owned by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (51%) and DHL Express (49%), of around US$52m over the period investigated.

Polar Air Cargo was founded in 1993 as a joint venture between Southern Air Transport and GE Capital Aviation Services. It operates a fleet of Boeing 747-400F, -8F and Boeing 777-F freighters.

Photo: Polar Air Cargo.

“Tainted” Operations

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said, “As alleged, the ten defendants charged today conducted a widespread scheme that tainted nearly every aspect of Polar Air Cargo Worldwide’s operations and that cost the company an estimated $52 million in losses.

“The defendants, all of whom were either employed in high-level positions by Polar or were vendors reliant on business arrangements with Polar, allegedly showed a blatant disregard for the integrity of their companies in favor of lining their own pockets. Their pervasive fraud ends today, and defendants now face substantial prison time for their alleged crimes.”

FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said, “For more than a decade, the defendants allegedly utilized a complex set of schemes at the expense of Polar Air to line their own pockets. The indictments today remind any unscrupulous actors attempting complex frauds – the FBI will hold you accountable in the criminal justice system.”

Featured Image: Polar Air Cargo/DHL N452PA Boeing 747-46NF. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways.

European Deputy Editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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