Top dairy firms face cartel charges

A preliminary investigation by prosecutor Isidoros Dogiakos has led to enough evidence being gathered to charge Greece’s four biggest dairy companies with price fixing, sources said yesterday. Dogiakos is set to ask in the next few days the prosecutor’s office to charge Vivartia, FAGE, AGNO and MEVGAL with serial extortion, a criminal offense. During his investigation, the prosecutor questioned a number of milk producers who alleged that the four companies threatened to stop buying milk from them if they did not lower their prices. Dogiakos believes that there is evidence to suggest that the dairy firms colluded behind the scenes and acted as a cartel to force down the price at which they bought milk. However, the companies stand accused of not passing on any savings to consumers and simply using the lower price of milk to boost their profits. The Competition Commission also conducted an investigation into the alleged cartel more than six months ago. The results of its probe were not published but sources suggested that it implicated 17 dairy producers and retailers on four counts of price fixing and other cartel practices. The prosecutor launched his investigation after Competition Commission Director Panayiotis Adamopoulos was remanded in custody last September after being accused of colluding with two other men to ask for a 2.5-million-euro bribe from MEVGAL so the watchdog would not fine the company. All three suspects have since been released on bail but are due to stand trial on corruption charges later this year.

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