Japanese shipping firm exec admits price-fixing in US

MENAFN- The Peninsula) An executive of Japanese shipping company Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to fix prices for transporting cars and will serve a US prison sentence, officials said.

Hiroshige Tanioka, who was general manager in K-Line's car carrier division, admitted he had conspired with others in the industry to rig bids and fix prices for shipping vehicles on roll-on, roll-off vessels, the Justice Department said.

Tanioka agreed to plead guilty to a one-count felony charge in a federal court in Baltimore, Maryland. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison and will pay a $20,000 criminal fine, the department said.

Tanioka was involved in the conspiracy from at least as early as April 1998 until at least April 2012 in shipments to and from the United States, including the port of Baltimore, the department said.

"For more than a decade this conspiracy has raised the cost of importing cars and trucks into the United States," said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer, of the department's antitrust division.

Tanioka was the first individual to receive a sentence in the Justice Department's ocean shipping investigation.

K-Line was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $67.7 million in November 2014. Another Japanese company, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, better known as NYK, agreed to pay $59.4 million in December, and Chile-based Compania Sud Americana de Vapores accepted an $8.9 million fine in February.

Under the terms of his plea deal, Tanioka agreed to help the department with its investigation. He was charged with a violation of the Sherman Act, which entails up to a 10-year prison sentence and a $1 million criminal fine for an individual.

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