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Shipping company executives charged with price-fixing at Port of Baltimore

Shipping executives allegedly fixed prices and rigged bids on shipments, indictment says.

Three former shipping executives were indicted as part of an investigation of price-fixing and bid rigging involving cargo shipped to and from the Port of Baltimore and other U.S. locations.

Executives Yoshiyuki Aoki, Masahiro Kato and Shunichi Kusunose were charged with allocating customers and routes, rigging bids and fixing prices in the sale of shipping for roll-on, roll-off cargo including cars, trucks, construction equipment and agricultural equipment, the FBI said Tuesday. Contact information for those charged could not be found.

Aoki, who had worked for Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, known as NYK, and Kato and Kusunose, formerly of Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, known as K-Line, are the latest executives to be charged in the investigation, the FBI said. Four others have pleaded guilty and been sentenced to prison, while the two companies also have pleaded guilty and paid more than $136 million in criminal fines, the FBI said. Representatives of the companies could not be reached Tuesday.

"These felony charges indicate to those intent on corrupting our economy they will be identified and brought to justice," said Kevin Perkins, special agent in charge in the FBI's Baltimore division, in the announcement. "Our job is to protect victims who don't see these crimes occurring, but who always end up paying the price."

The FBI's Baltimore field office is investigating with the Washington criminal section of the U.S. Attorney General's antitrust division. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Internal Affairs is assisting in the probe.

The indictment, a formal charging document, was returned by a federal grand jury in Baltimore. Aoki was charged with participating from at least as early as 2001 until at least September 2012. Kato was alleged to have participated from at least as early as April 2002 until at least September 2012; and Kusunose participated, the indictment alleges, from at least as early as April 2004 until at least September 2012.

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