August 02, 2018
Air traffic controllers work in the tower at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. (AP file photo)
NEW YORK: A supervisor at New York’s Kennedy Airport took bribes and broke security rules to let Qatar and other countries park their planes overnight during the UN General Assembly over the last five years, prosecutors said.
Marlene Mizzi, 54, was indicted Wednesday on charges of receiving a reward for official misconduct.
Joseph Jourieh, 58, a travel coordinator who works on behalf of the Permanent Mission of the State of Qatar to the United Nations, also was charged. He is accused of giving Mizzi meals, limo rides and a watch.
They each face up to four years in prison if convicted on the top counts. Information on their arraignments and lawyers wasn’t immediately available.
Mizzi was suspended in June from her job as assistant duty supervisor at the airport. Prosecutors said she had worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public agency that runs the airport, for 35 years. The alleged scheme started in 2014.
“Today’s indictment will serve notice to all Port Authority employees that the agency will not tolerate violations of the public trust or any other corrupt acts,” Port Authority Inspector General Michael Nestor said. Qatar’s mission to the UN didn’t immediately comment.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said Mizzi didn’t have proper approval to make exceptions to a rule prohibiting foreign state aircraft from parking overnight. During the annual General Assembly gathering in September, airport rules require that foreign state aircraft depart within two hours of arrival.
Mizzi allowed numerous Qatari planes to stay overnight, sometimes for days on end, the indictment said.
In addition to Jourieh’s gifts, prosecutors said Mizzi received gifts for giving special treatment to other countries. Sometimes representatives of those countries would personally deliver the gifts to her on airport property. Prosecutors did not identify the other countries involved.
The Port Authority said its ethics code includes a strict zero tolerance policy prohibiting payments, gifts, meals or transportation from anyone doing business or likely to do business with the agency. Former Port Authority chairman David Samson was sentenced last year to home confinement for pressuring United Airlines to restart a money-losing flight to South Carolina, near where he has a second home. The flight was derisively dubbed “The Chairman’s Flight.”