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Brussels, 11th April 2007

Antitrust: Commission confirms sending Statement of Objections to alleged participants in cartel for transport of bulk liquids by sea

The European Commission can confirm that it has recently sent a Statement of Objections to a number of undertakings regarding their alleged role in cartel arrangements for shipping liquids in bulk on deep sea routes.

The Statement of Objections alleges that the undertakings concerned were involved in customer allocation, bid-rigging, price-fixing and the exchange of confidential market information concerning the maritime transport of bulk liquids on deep sea routes, thereby restricting competition in the EU market in violation of EC Treaty rules outlawing restrictive business practices (Article 81 EC Treaty and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement).

The preliminary conclusions outlined in the Statement of Objections are based on information gathered during unannounced inspections by the Commission carried out on 19th and 20th February 2003, information supplied afterwards under the Commission's Leniency Notice or resulting from the Commission's subsequent investigation.

Procedural background

A Statement of Objections is a formal step in European anti-trust investigations in which the Commission informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them. The addressee of a Statement of Objections has two months to reply in writing, setting out all facts known to it which are relevant to its defence against the objections raised by the Commission. The party may also request an oral hearing to present its comments on the case, which usually takes place about one month after the written reply has been received.

Only after having heard the company's defence can the Commission take a final decision, which may be accompanied by fines of up to ten per cent of a company's worldwide total annual turnover. Sending a Statement of Objections does not prejudge in any way the final outcome of the procedure.

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