Singapore Airlines Cargo (SIA Cargo) has agreed to plead guilty in a price-fixing case and pay a $48 million criminal fine, the U.S. Justice Department has announced.

The Justice Department filed a one-count felony charge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, accusing SIA Cargo of fixing cargo rates charged to certain customers in the U.S. and elsewhere for international air shipments from as early as February 2002 until at least February 14, 2006.

According to the Justice Department, SIA Cargo and co-conspirators agreed during meetings, conversations, and other communications to fix the cargo rates on certain routes to and from the U.S. In accordance with the agreement, SIA Cargo and co-conspirators also monitored and enforced the rates.

The Justice Department has charged SIA Cargo with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum fine for corporations of $100 million. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

However, as part of the plea deal, SIA Cargo, which has cooperated with the department's ongoing antitrust investigation, will pay only $48 million.

The company decided to accept the offer after consulting its legal advisers and carefully weighing its options, SIA Cargo said in a statement.

So far, a total of 20 airlines and 17 executives have been charged in the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into price fixing in the air transportation industry.

Until now, more than $1.7 billion in criminal fines have been levied and four executives have been sentenced to serve prison time. Charges are pending against the remaining 13 executives.