USA

Ex-British Airways exec took $5M in bribes in pay-to-play scheme: AG

A former British Airways exec allegedly took $5 million in bribes in a pay-to-play scheme for lucrative airport contracts, Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.

Steven Clark, 61, allegedly took monthly bribes of up to $18,000 from the ex-CEO of Ground Services International (GSI), Jeff Kinsella, 59, for five years in exchange for getting his company work with British Airways in Terminal 7 of JFK airport, according to James’ office.

The scheme — which was allegedly carried out from 2011 to 2016 — involved Clark billing GSI using fake invoices for consulting services he never performed. And Kinsella also gave him five percent in GSI shares, the AG’s office alleged.

Clark allegedly successfully advocated for British Airways to grant contracts to GSI to perform ground handling services for the airline at Chicago and JFK airports in 2006 and 2007 and after that GSI was given contracts in other US airports too, the AG’s office claimed.

When GSI was sold off in 2016, Kinsella paid $3.6 million to buy Clark out of his shares, officials said.

Kinsella was also accused of carrying out a similar scheme paying a Terminal One Group Association exec $640,000 in bribes including monthly $20,000 payments in exchange for influence in Terminal 1 and $120,000 bribe for helping GSI in its sale to another company, James’ office said.

Clark was also allegedly bribed with over $500,000 by another airport vendor, the AG’s office said.

“Today’s indictment sends a clear message to airline companies and airport vendors: pay-to-play schemes will not fly in New York,” James said adding that the pair “invalidated the trust of millions of people that use Terminal 7 each year in an effort to line their own pockets.”

The men were arraigned in Queens Supreme Court on charges of money laundering, falsifying business records and conspiracy. Also, Kinsella was charged with bribing and Clark was charged with being bribed. A judge released both men without bail.

Clark’s lawyer, Kevin O’Brien, told The Post his client, “is innocent of these charges and he will prove that in short order in this proceeding.”

Kinsella’s lawyer, Brian Legghio, said in a statement that his client received the JFK contracts, “on merit and based on his outstanding reputation.”

Legghio called the AG’s case against Kinsella, “a gross distortion of reality.”

“We look forward to contesting these charges in court and clearing his name,” Legghio added.