(Updates with Chiquita comment in fifth paragraph.)
Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Firma Leon Van Parys NV’s Pacific Fruit unit was fined 8.9 million euros ($12.3 million) for fixing banana prices in an antitrust case brought to the European Union’s attention by Chiquita Brands International Inc.
Chiquita, the world’s biggest banana producer, wasn’t punished because it was first to tell regulators about price- fixing in Italy, Greece and Portugal from July 2004 to April 2005, the European Commission said in an e-mailed statement.
“Companies need to be aware that the commission takes its anti-cartel enforcement duties very seriously,” said Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner. “There are only two ways to avoid a fine: refrain from joining a cartel or, if you have fallen for it, repent rapidly and inform the commission about it.”
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 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.
Pacific Fruit, based in Antwerp, Belgium, and owned by Firma Leon Van Parys, declined to comment. It imports bananas to Europe using the brand name Bonita. Chiquita is “pleased to have this issue concluded,” Ed Loyd, a spokesman for Chiquita, said in an e-mailed statement.
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