Second K-Line executive gets prison sentence

FEBRUARY 9, 2015 — Takashi Yamaguchi, a former executive of Japan-based Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. (K-Line) pleaded guilty Friday and was sentenced to 14 months in a U.S. prison for his involvement in a conspiracy to fix prices, allocate customers and rig bids of international ocean shipping services for roll-on, roll-off cargo, such as cars and trucks, to and from the United States and elsewhere, the Department of Justice reports. The sentence follows the January 30 imposition of an 18 month prison sentence on another K-Line executive, Hiroshige Tanioka (see earlier story).

According to a one-count felony charge filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Baltimore on Dec. 29, 2014, Takashi Yamaguchi, who was a general manager and executive officer in K-Line's car carrier division, conspired to allocate customers and routes, rig bids and fix prices for the sale of international ocean shipments of roll-on, roll-off cargo to and from the United States and elsewhere, including the Port of Baltimore.

Yamaguchi participated in the conspiracy from at least as early as July 2006 until at least April 2010.

Under the plea agreement, which was accepted by the court Friday, Yamaguchi was sentenced to serve a 14-month prison term and pay a $20,000 criminal fine for his participation in the conspiracy. In addition, Yamaguchi has agreed to assist the department in its ongoing investigation into the ocean shipping industry.

Yamaguchi was charged with a violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine for an individual. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

"Today's sentencing is another step in our efforts to hold executives accountable for raising the cost of shipping cars, trucks and other equipment to and from the United States," said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division. "We will continue to pursue the corporations and executives whose illegal agreements have harmed American consumers."

In addition to the two prison sentences now imposed on individuals in the ongoing bid rigging and price fixing case, three corporations have previously agreed to plead guilty and to pay criminal fines totaling more than $136 million, including K-Line, which was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $67.7 million in November 2014.

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