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Bulgaria anti-monopoly watchdog raids more oil firms in fuel inquiry

SOFIA, April 22 (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s anti-monopoly watchdog said it had raided the offices of Eco Petroleum, part of Hellenic Petroleum, and Shell Bulgaria, owned by Royal Dutch Shell, as part of an investigation into possible cartel agreements.

The inquiry follows complaints by Bulgarians over high fuel costs despite a plunge in global oil prices and a call by Prime Minister Boiko Borisov for the competition authority to hasten checks on the fuel sector.

“Employees of the Commission for Protection of Competition are carrying out surprise checks on site at the offices of Eco Bulgaria and Shell Bulgaria,” the commission said in a statement on Friday.

Shell and Eco Petroleum were not available for comment but the Bulgarian Petrol and Gas Association, of which all of the companies being investigated are members, has said there were no cartel agreements between any of its members.

The latest raids follow others earlier this month on the Bulgarian offices of Russia’s Lukoil and Romania’s Rompetrol.

In February, the watchdog began investigating the four companies, as well as the offices of OMV, Nis Petrol, controlled by Russia’s Gazprom Neft and Bulgarian Petrol over possible price fixing.

It has also launched a probe into the Lukoil Neftochim Burgas oil refinery over possible breaches of competition rules related to the sale of its fuels on the local market. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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