- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Two Japanese corporations and one Korean firm have agreed to plead guilty and pay criminal fines totaling more than $9 million in a worldwide conspiracy to fix the prices of a food-flavor enhancer, the Justice Department said yesterday.
The firms, Ajinomoto Co. Inc. and Daesang Japan Inc., both of Japan, and Cheil Jedang Corp. of Korea make nucleotides, which are organic compounds used in soups, sauces, spices and other foods to enhance their flavor.
Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said that in separate criminal cases filed in U.S. District Court in Dallas, federal prosecutors charged Ajinomoto, Daesang and Cheil with conspiring to fix the prices of, and allocate customers for, nucleotides sold in the United States and elsewhere.
Miss Talamona said the conspiracy began as early as July 1992 and continued until at least August 1996. Ajinomoto has agreed to pay a fine of $6 million in connection with its guilty plea, while Cheil has agreed to pay a $3 million fine and Daesang has agreed to pay a $90,000 fine.
Tamon Tanabe, a Japanese citizen and executive of Ajinomoto, was indicted last Thursday by a federal grand jury in Dallas for participating in the same worldwide conspiracy.
"These cases reflect the Antitrust Division's resolve to proceed aggressively against illegal international cartels that harm American businesses and consumers," said Assistant Attorney General Charles A. James, who heads the department's antitrust division.
Miss Talamona said the three companies agreed to raise and fix prices and allocate customers for their product.
She said each defendant is charged with violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum fine of $10 million for corporations. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime.
The case was investigated by the antitrust division's Dallas field office and the FBI in Dallas.

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