Whistleblower escapes US$226m fine

29 / 03 / 2012

THE ‘Gardening Club’ freight forwarding cartel has been fined €169m (US$226m) by the European Commission (EC).

The cartel – so-called because it used code names based on the names of vegetables, such as asparagus and baby courgettes – was made up of 14 companies, including Panalpina and UPS.

Deutsche Post, including its subsidiaries DHL and Exel Cargo, avoided the fine by co-operating with the EC’s competition commission.

The group colluded in four cartels to illegally set charges on goods dispatched on important trade lanes between China, Europe and the US, from 2002 to 2007, the EC reveals.

EC vice-president Joaquín Almunia, who is in charge of competition policy, said: “These cartels affected individuals and companies shipping goods on important trade lanes. Many European exporters and consumers of imported goods may have been harmed as a result.

“In times of crisis, it is all the more important to stamp out the hidden tax that cartels impose on our economy. Companies should be aware that crossing the line and colluding on prices comes at a high price, as today’s decision illustrates.”