Pacific Fruit, a Belgium based produce distributor owned by Firma Leon Van Parys NV, is in hot water with the European Union. The company has been implicated in a conspiracy to fix banana prices in Greece, Italy, and Portugal between July of 2004 and April of 2005, and is now facing fines of 8.9 million Euros ($12.1 million U.S.) as a result. Chiquita Brands International worked together with Pacific Fruit in the price fixing scheme – but, by being the whistle blower, has managed to avoid being subject to the same penalties.
This isn’t the first time that the whistle has been blown over banana price fixing – and it’s also not the first time Chiquita Brands has been the mouth behind the whistle. In 2008, Dole Food Co. and Fresh Del Monte Produce were fined 60 million Euros each for conspiring to fix banana prices. Chiquita Brands International was involved in this scheme as well. Once again, however, Chiquita escaped fines and penalties by alerting authorities with the European Union to the activity.
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“Companies need to be aware that the commission takes its anti-cartel enforcement duties very seriously,” said Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, in an official statement. “There are only two ways to avoid a fine: refrain from joining a cartel or, if you have fallen for it, repent rapidly and inform the commission about it.”
According to another statement by company spokesman Ed Loyd, Chiquita Brands International is simply “pleased to have this issue concluded.”