EU: Chiquita, Pacific Fruit Ran Banana Cartel

U.S.-based Chiquita has escaped a fine over conspiring to fix prices on bananas because it blew the whistle on the cartel.

BRUSSELS (AP) -- U.S.-based Chiquita Brands International Inc. has escaped a fine over conspiring to fix prices on bananas in Greece, Italy and Portugal between July 2004 and April 2005, because it blew the whistle on the cartel.

However, its partner in the cartel Pacific Fruit was not spared and the European Commission has slapped a €8.9 million ($12.1 million) fine on the company that sells bananas under the Bonita brand.

"Companies need to be aware that the Commission takes its anti-cartel enforcement duties very seriously," the EU's Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a 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."

This is the second banana cartel case in the EU in recent years. In October 2008, the Commission fined fruit companies Dole Food Co. and Internationale Fruchtimport Gesellschaft Weichert GmbH €60 million for fixing banana prices in eight northern European states between 2000 and 2002.

Chiquita was also part of that cartel, but was not fined because it reported it to the Commission.

The parent company of Pacific Fruit -- Antwerp, Belgium, based Firma Leon Van Parys NV -- declined to comment on the fine.

Chiquita couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

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