| SAO PAULO, March 21
SAO PAULO, March 21 Brazil's antitrust agency
has begun investigating several major international companies
for allegedly fixing prices in contracts to build and maintain
trains and subway lines in five Brazilian cities.
The alleged price-fixing involved bids for 15 contracts
worth 9.4 billion reais ($4.05 billion)for subways and urban
railway lines built in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo
Horizonte, Brasilia and Porto Alegre between 1998 and 2013.
CADE announced the legal proceedings on Thursday in a
statement that said 118 officials from 18 companies, including
Germany's Siemens AG, Canada's Bombardier Inc
, France's Alstom SA, Japan's Mitsui & Co Ltd
and Spain's CAF SA, were under investigation.
Other international and local engineering and railway
equipment companies are also being investigated, including U.S.
-based Caterpillar Inc, South Korea's Hyundai Rotem Co
and DaimlerChrysler Rail Systems, which was acquired
by Bombardier in 2001.
The agency said evidence was collected in July when
authorities raided offices in Sao Paulo and seized documents
that, CADE said, indicated the existence of a cartel.
"The members of the cartel apparently divided up the tenders
between themselves and pretended there was competition, but had
agreed previously on the prices of their bids," CADE said.
Siemens voluntarily self-reported its alleged involvement in
the price-fixing scheme to Brazilian authorities last year in a
plea bargain agreement to lessen its responsibility.
Some of the companies denied the accusations and said they
would cooperate with Brazilian authorities.
"We strongly believe that Bombardier Transportation in
Brazil and our employees have always acted in compliance with
the laws and our code of ethics," a spokesman for the Bombardier
unit, Marc Laforge, said by email on Friday.
"We have fully cooperated with the investigation and intend
to continue to do so."
Siemens said in a statement, "We believe the investigations
will lead to a more ethical and transparent business environment
Alstom said it would provide clarifications to the Brazilian
authorities as soon as it had access to the legal documents.
CADE said the cartel allegedly began in 1998 during bidding
for Sao Paulo's Lilas metro line and price-fixing continued with
the city's CPTM metropolitan railway projects, a subway in
Brazil's capital Brasilia in 2005, and contracts for subway cars
for Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro in 2012.
(Additional reporting by Solarina Ho in Toronto; Writing by
Anthony Boadle; Editing by Marguerita Choy)