Norwegian Shipper Pleads Guilty to Price-Fixing

(CN) – A Norwegian shipping company agreed to pay $21 million in criminal fines after admitting to a role in an international conspiracy to fix prices, rig bids and allocate customers.

Hoegh Autoliners is the fifth corporation to plead guilty in the ongoing antitrust case, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which said over $255 million in fines have been levied so far.

Hoegh pleaded guilty in Maryland Federal Court to a charge of conspiring with competitors to reduce and eliminate other competition by allocating routes and customers, fixing prices for the sale of international ocean cargo shipments, and rigging bids for shipments.

The price-fixing conspiracy took place between 2001 and 2012 and involved cargo being moved to and from the United States, including the Port of Baltimore, prosecutors said.

Four executives have already been sentenced to prison for their role in the scheme, and seven others have been indicted but are on the run.

Along with the $21 million penalty, Hoegh also agreed to three years of corporation probation, full compliance with antitrust laws, and cooperation in the investigation.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson said in a statement that investigators’ work on the case “will play a part in restoring confidence in the shipping industry.”

“Our job is to protect victims who don’t see these crimes occurring, but who always end up paying the price,” Johnson said.

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