Attorney General James Announces Indictments Of Former Airline Executives In “Pay-To-Play" Bribery Scheme At JFK Airport

Attorney General James Announces Indictments of Former Airline Executives in “Pay-To-Play" Bribery Scheme at JFK Airport

Former Ground Services International Head Allegedly Bribed British Airways Executive with $5 Million in Exchange for Promoting the Ground Handling Company Within the Airline 

QUEENS – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the indictment of former British Airways Executive Steven Clark, 61, of New York, NY, and former Ground Services International (GSI) CEO Jeff Kinsella, 59, of Naples, FL, for engaging in a multi-year commercial bribery and money laundering scheme at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Clark and Kinsella surrendered on multiple felony charges centered on allegations that Kinsella paid millions of dollars in bribes to Clark, former head of British Airways operations at JFK Terminal 7.

According to court filings and statements made by prosecutors, between 2011 and 2016, Kinsella allegedly paid more than $5 million to Clark for the purpose of influencing Clark’s conduct related to his position at British Airways. British Airways leases JFK Terminal 7 from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority). Under this arrangement, British Airways selects service providers, such as GSI, that work at Terminal 7. Clark oversaw British Airways operations in the Americas and Asia, as well as British Airways operations at Terminal 7.

“Today’s indictment sends a clear message to airline companies and airport vendors: pay-to-play schemes will not fly in New York,” said Attorney General James. “For years, Kinsella, GSI’s former CEO and owner, and Clark, a former British Airways executive, broke the law and invalidated the trust of the millions of people that use Terminal 7 each year in an effort to line their own pockets. My office is committed to cracking down on public corruption and will continue to work with our partners at the Port Authority of NY & NJ to ensure public integrity and accountability throughout the area.” 

“Today’s announcement exposes a pay-to-play scheme that enabled Port Authority tenants and vendors to game the system and award business in exchange for payoffs and greed versus integrity and fairness," said Port Authority of NY & NJ Inspector General Michael Nestor. “The Port Authority of NY & NJ Office of Inspector General and the New York State Attorney General will work vigorously to identify and root out corruption and ensure that all tenants and contractors conducting business at our Port Authority facilities do so with the highest degree of honesty, integrity, and fairness.”

Kinsella and Clark engaged in a clandestine pay-to-play scheme at JFK to the detriment of British Airways, the Port Authority, airport employees, and travelers who pass through the busiest international airport in the United States. Most of the money was allegedly laundered from GSI through Danison Management LLC, a Kinsella company, and a shell company created by Clark named Naviance Consulting (Naviance). Kinsella allegedly paid Clark up to $18,000 per month for his promotion and protection of GSI within British Airways. Clark and Kinsella concealed these payments from British Airways by creating fake invoices, which Clark then used to bill GSI for illusory consulting services, concealing the true nature of the payments.

In addition to the monthly payments, Kinsella also allegedly granted Clark an undisclosed 5-percent ownership interest in GSI. Throughout 2006 and 2007, Clark advocated on behalf of GSI within British Airways, during which GSI was subsequently awarded contracts to provide lucrative ground handling services at Chicago and JFK Airport. After 2007, British Airways awarded GSI ground handling contracts at other airports in the United States as well as further expanding GSI’s duties at JFK. In 2016, after GSI was sold to Dnata — a ground handling company based in Dubai — Kinsella paid Clark $3.6 million for his 5-percent ownership interest. Clark never disclosed to British Airways his monthly payments from GSI and Kinsella or his undisclosed 5-percent ownership interest in GSI during the entire time he advocated on behalf of GSI within British Airways.   

JFK Terminal 1 is operated by a consortium of airlines, including Lufthansa, Air France, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air, known as the Terminal One Group Association (TOGA). Between 2015 and 2016, Kinsella allegedly paid more than $640,000 to a TOGA executive for the purpose of influencing that individual’s conduct related to their position at Terminal 1. The defendants are accused of laundering these payments through a shell company named Plane to Sea Consultant. Kinsella allegedly concealed these bribe payments from TOGA management by having the TOGA executive create fake invoices for consulting services that were never provided in order to pay the executive $20,000 per month. When Dnata was looking to buy GSI, Kinsella arranged for the TOGA executive to speak with Dnata on GSI’s behalf. The TOGA executive never revealed to Dnata that he received monthly payments of $20,000 per month from Kinsella. Kinsella then allegedly rewarded the TOGA executive with $120,000 for his help in securing GSI’s sale to Dnata. 

The indictment also alleges that between 2011 and 2017, Clark received more than $500,000 from another airport vendor for the purpose of influencing Clark’s conduct related to his position at British Airways. The vendor paid Clark $7,730 a month for non-existent consulting services that were concealed through the use of fake invoices. These payments were also allegedly laundered through Naviance. 

The defendants were arraigned in Queens County Supreme Court before Justice Barry Kron. A grand jury indicted Steven Clark on two counts of Money Laundering in the Second Degree, two counts of Commercial Bribe Receiving in the First Degree, three counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree. Jeff Kinsella was indicted on two counts of Money Laundering in the Second Degree, two counts of Commercial Bribing in the First Degree, four counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and two counts of Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree.

The charges against Clark and Kinsella are merely allegations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The Office of the Attorney General wishes to thank the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – Office of the Inspector General for their partnership in investigating this case. Specifically, the Office of the Attorney General recognizes Port Authority – OIG Forensic Investigators Mia Chang, Jaime King, and Justin Meshulam; Supervising Investigator Fred Ferrone; Assistant Director of Investigations Salvatore Dalessandro; and Director of Investigations Steven Pasichow, for their assistance throughout the investigation.

The investigation of this matter was conducted by Attorney General’s Office Investigator Melissa Kaplan, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Sylvia Rivera and Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes, in the Office of the Attorney General.

Assistant Attorney General Gerard Murphy and Public Integrity Bureau Chief Travis Hill are handling the prosecution. Assisting in the case is Legal Support Analyst Kyle Finnegan. The Criminal Division is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jose Maldonado and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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