Brazil's anti-monopolies commission announced on Thursday it had begun investigating allegations that transport providers, including several large international firms, had operated a price-rigging cartel for 15 years in major cities.
Eighteen firms and 109 employees in the companies are accused of participating in illicit price-fixing, said the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), an offshoot of the justice ministry responsible for probing anti-trust cases.
According to CADE, Germany's Siemens alerted it to the problem, highlighting anti-competitive practices between 1998 and 2013 in an apparent bid to win leniency with its Brazilian subsidiary one of the operators concerned.
The evidence collated shows that the alleged cartel was active on 15 projects, in the capital Brasilia as well as in the states of Rio de Janeiro, business center Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul.
”These projects covered contacts worth some 9.4 billion reais (4 billion), CADE revealed.
Aside from Siemens, the investigation covers other sector giants including French firm Alstom, Spain's CAF, Japan's Mitsui and Bombardier of Canada.
CADE said it suspects the group of firms collaborated on pre-arranged tendering offers to simulate competition over the 15-year period before Siemens blew the whistle in May of last year.
Alstom said it would wait until it had seen all the documents pertaining to the case amid an investigation of its own before making a full statement to the authorities.
Siemens said in a statement it had zero tolerance for any kind of illegal conduct and said it believes the investigation will engender a more ethical and transparent business environment in Brazil.”
CADE now must decide whether the case should go before Brazil's Anti-Monopolies Administrative Tribunal. If the cartel firms are found guilty of competition violations they face being hit with a fine of up to 20% of revenue, CADE noted.