US Charges 3 More Shipping Executives with Ro-Ro Price-Fixing

The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted three more former ocean freight executives for participating in a long-running price-fixing conspiracy.

Yoshiyuki Aoki, formerly of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K-Line), and Masahiro Kato and Shunichi Kusunose, formerly of Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), have been charged with allocating customers and routes, rigging bids and fixing prices for the sale of international ocean shipments of roll-on, roll-off cargo to and from the United States and elsewhere. The affected cargo included cars, trucks, construction equipment and agricultural equipment.

Aoki, Kato and Kusunose are among seven executives who have been charged in the investigation so far. Four have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison.

The indictment, which was returned by a grand jury in the District of Maryland, charges Aoki with participating in the conspiracy from at least as early as 2001 until at least September 2012; Kato with participating from at least as early as April 2002 until at least September 2012; and Kusunose with participating from at least as early as April 2004 until at least September 2012.

NYK, K-Line and one other company have also pleaded guilty and paid more than USD 136 million in criminal fines.

“The companies and executives who conspired to restrict competition and raise prices for shipping these products must be held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Antitrust Division.

“We previously charged NYK and K-Line for their role in this long-running conspiracy. Today we are continuing our effort to ensure that the executives at those companies who orchestrated the ocean shipping conspiracy face the consequences as well.”