UPDATE 1-Panasonic Automotive executive indicted for price-fixing

WASHINGTON, Sept 24 Tue Sep 24, 2013 5:03pm EDT

WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - An executive with Panasonic Automotive Systems Corp was indicted on Tuesday on charges that he conspired to fix the prices of steering wheel switches and other parts sold to Toyota Motor Corp for cars sold in the United States, the Justice Department said.

The indictments are the latest in a wide-ranging probe into price fixing of a variety of car parts that has ensnared 11 companies and 19 executives. Panasonic agreed in July to pay about a $45.8 million criminal fine in connection with the probe.

The European Commission has a parallel investigation under way.

Shinichi Kotani, who is Japanese, conspired to fix the prices of turn signal and headlight switches and related devices from January 2004 to at least February 2010, according to the indictment.

The parts involved in the Justice Department's probe have included heater control panels that regulate a car's temperature, switches for turn signals and wiper blades, power locks, dashboard panel instruments, airbags, steering wheels and seat belts.

Among the companies that the Justice Department's Antitrust Division has settled with are Autoliv, Tokai Rika Co Ltd , TRW Deutschland Holding GmbH, Nippon Seiki Co Ltd and Furukawa Electric Co Ltd and Fujikura Ltd.

The case is in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, and is No. 13-20700.

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