Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Maersk Line Settles Federal Fraud Allegations

By Mark Edward Nero

Maersk Line Ltd., a US-based subsidiary of A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, has paid the United States government $8.7 million to settle a civil settlement regarding Maersk’s failure to fully comply with terms of a contract with the United States Transportation Command, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said Nov. 5.

Under the contract, the Department of Defense used Maersk services to ship cargo from the United States to military outposts in Afghanistan. Maersk moved cargo by sea to a designated port, then by trucks over land, often travelling in remote areas where enemy combatants and criminal entities were active in delivering shipments.

However, the Transportation Command found that some claims submitted by Maersk contained suspicious signatures. Further investigation revealed that signatures purporting to verify receipt of shipments in Afghanistan were forged. A review uncovered 277 instances in which such claims were falsely made.

The transport command is based in St. Clair County, Illinois, which is why the case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois.

“I would note that to its credit, Maersk was cooperative in the investigation,” Stephen R. Wigginton, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said. “Aside from these containers, Maersk has successfully delivered thousands of shipments during the war effort.”

The matter was investigated by the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

“Maersk’s overall conduct reflects a stronger performance and greater diligence than the relatively small amount of non-compliant warzone shipments would suggest, but ... even a small amount of overall fraud becomes a huge waste of tax dollars,” Wigginton said.