Three former executives of ocean freight shipping firms have been indicted for participating in a long-running price-fixing conspiracy, the U.S. Justice Department announced.
The executives – Yoshiyuki Aoki, Masahiro Kato and Shunichi Kusunose – have been brought up on felony charges for allegedly allocating customers and routes, rigging bids and fixing prices for the sale of international ocean shipments of roll-on, roll-off cargo to and from the U.S. and elsewhere, including the Port of Baltimore. The affected cargo included cars, trucks, construction equipment and agricultural equipment
Aoki, formerly of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha
(K-Line), and Kato and Kusunose, formerly of Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), are among seven executives who have been charged in the investigation so far. Four have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison. NYK, K-Line and one other company have also pleaded guilty and paid more than $136 million in criminal fines.
“The companies and executives who conspired to restrict competition and raise prices for shipping these products must be held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Antitrust Division. “We previously charged NYK and K-Line for their role in this long-running conspiracy. Today we are continuing our effort to ensure that the executives at those companies who orchestrated the ocean shipping conspiracy face the consequences as well.”
“These felony charges indicate to those intent on corrupting our economy they will be identified and brought to justice,” said Special Agent in Charge Kevin Perkins
of the FBI’s Baltimore Division. “Our job is to protect victims who don’t see these crimes occurring, but who always end up paying the price.”
The indictment, which was returned by a grand jury in the District of Maryland, charges Aoki with participating in the conspiracy from at least as early as 2001 until at least September 2012; Kato with participating from at least as early as April 2002 until at least September 2012; and Kusunose with participating from at least as early as April 2004 until at least September 2012.
The investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section and the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office, with assistance from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Internal Affairs, Washington Field Office/Special Investigations Unit.