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Chilean Competition Tribunal fines helicopter companies and their top executives for colluding to affect bids to fight forest fires

22 / 08 / 2023

The Chilean Competition Tribunal (TDLC) accepted the lawsuit filed by the National Economic Prosecutor´s Office (FNE) in March 2020 against the companies Pegasus South America Servicios Integrales de Aviación SpA (Faasa or Pegasus) and Inaer Helicopter Chile S.A. (Inaer) for entering into and executing an agreement to affect the outcome of public and private bidding processes conducted between 2006 and 2013 for fighting and extinguishing forest fires using helicopters.

The TDLC imposed fines on these companies and their top executives that exceed USD$6 million, of which more than USD$3,8 million must be paid by Pegasus and more than USD$2,2 million by Inaer.

In addition, the executives Ricardo Pacheco Campusano, linked to Pegasus, and Rodrigo Lizasoaín Videla, linked to Inaer, will have to pay approximately US$51,700 each, because, according to the sentence: “their participation allowed for the necessary coordination between Faasa and Inaer to reach the Illicit agreement“, qualifying them, furthermore, as “its main architects”.

The tribunal also declared Lizasoaín´s joint and several liability with Inaer, due to his capacity as administrator of the company, during the entire imputed period and his own participation in the conduct.

To set the fine, the TDLC considered that the collusive agreement “had impact on a sensitive market, since this service plays a key role in protecting people´s lives, caring of the environment, and preserving the forest heritage of our country”.

The National Economic Prosecutor, Jorge Grunberg, stated that: “This sentence, not only condemns those responsible of a collusion that was very harmful to the country, but also ratifies that neither the companies nor the executives involved in a cartel have impunity in Chile. Additionally, the decision states, for the first time, that administrators of a company found liable of collusion that have participated in the conduct, must respond jointly and severally for the fine imposed on the company, thus guaranteeing its payment”.

The Prosecutor also mentioned that the FNE continues to monitor sensitive markets and recalled that, among those affected by this collusive agreement, is the National Forestry Corporation (Conaf).

The investigation that originated the claim, began in September 2017 as a branch of the process that ended with a lawsuit filed in July 2018 for collusion in the market for combating and extinction of forest fires using tanker planes during the seasons between 2009 and 2015.

Regarding this last process, at the end of July the Supreme Court confirmed the condemnatory decision issued by the TDLC against the companies Martínez Ridao Chile and Faasa, also involved in the collusive agreement sanctioned in said market.