Japanese refiner-marketers enter pleas in bid rigging case

During the first hearing at the Tokyo High Court of the bid-rigging case involving the 1998 sale of fuel to Japan's Defense Agency, only 3 of the 11 indicted oil distributors and three officials from the firms pleaded not guilty to the charge. Eleven oil companies and nine officials from seven of the firms have been indicted for an alleged violation of Japan's Antimonopoly Law.


TOKYO�During the first hearing at the Tokyo High Court of the bid-rigging case involving the 1998 sale of fuel to Japan's Defense Agency, only 3 of the 11 indicted oil distributors and three officials from the firms pleaded not guilty to the charge. Eleven oil companies and nine officials from seven of the firms were indicted for an alleged violation of Japan's Antimonopoly Law (OGJ, Oct. 18, 1999, Newsletter).

In a similar move, Japan's Fair Trade Commission has launched an investigation into possible polypropylene price fixing.

The companies pleading not guilty in the fuel supply case were Cosmo Oil Co., Nippon Mitsubishi Oil Co., and Showa Shell Sekiyu KK. Yuki Yamamoto, 53, who was responsible for the sale of fuel at Cosmo Oil Co., and two other officials also rejected the charges.

Those pleading not guilty argued that they simply followed the agency's instruction, which tried to ensure a stable and constant supply of fuel for the purpose of national defense, and that they had no intention of monopolizing orders from the agency or manipulating prices.

On the same day, the eight other indicted companies, including Idemitsu Kosan Co. and Japan Energy Co., pleaded guilty.

Meanwhile, Japan's Fair Trade Commission has launched an investigation into seven petrochemical companies' practices on the suspicion that they have established a price cartel in polypropylene sales, another violation of the Antimonopoly Law.

The seven companies are Sumitomo Chemical Co., Tokuyama Corp., Japan Polychem Corp., Grand Polymer Co., Idemitsu Petrochemical Co., Chisso Corp., and Montell SDK Sunrise Co., a Japanese unit of Montell, part of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group. The firms are responsible for most of Japan's polypropylene production, which amounted to 2.52 million tonnes in 1999 and is worth an estimated �340 billion.

The FTC suspects the seven companies held consultations over pricing prior to shipping their polypropylene products.

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