Bloomberg News

Chiquita Said to Escape Fines as EU Punishes Belgian Importer

October 11, 2011

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Leon Van Parys NV, a banana importer, may be fined as soon as tomorrow for fixing prices with Chiquita Brands International Inc., which will escape a penalty, according to two people with knowledge of the case.

Chiquita, the world’s biggest banana producer, won’t be punished because it was first to cooperate with regulators, said the people who can’t be identified because the decision isn’t public. No other companies are involved in the cartel, they said.

Chiquita, based in Cincinnati, avoided EU fines for blowing the whistle in a similar case in 2008. Dole Food Co. and Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. were fined about 60 million euros ($82 million) for fixing the price of bananas with Chiquita. The two companies rejected claims that they shared commercially sensitive information, arguing that they were required to exchange trade data under the EU’s system of setting import volumes and duties.

Leon Van Parys, based in Antwerp, Belgium, didn’t respond to a phone call outside regular office hours. The company imports bananas to Europe using the brand name Bonita.

Ed Loyd, a spokesman for Chiquita didn’t immediately respond to a phone and an e-mail message seeking comment. The EU declined to comment.

Cartels are “the top priority” for the EU’s antitrust authority because they harm consumers and companies, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has said. The regulator levied 3 billion euros in fines on 70 companies for price-fixing last year, according to the antitrust chief.

--With assistance from Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg. Editors: Peter Chapman, Christopher Scinta

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net


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