Ignacio Briones said that collusion “is the biggest crime against free competition”.
Last week, the Chilean salmon farming industry was rocked as four salmon feed feed producers were accused of colluding with each other for 12 years for allegedly setting the price of feed between 2003 and 2015.
The companies accused by Chile’s National Economic Prosecutor’s Office are: Chilean divisions of Biomar Chile, Comercializadora Nutreco Chile, Ewos Chile Alimentos and Vitapro Chile (Salmofood).
The allegations came from a Cargill (owner of EWOS) whistleblower complaint. The FNE has now exempted EWOS in its request for punishment.
- Read more: Chilean authorities accuse four salmon feed producers of price fixing and seek $70 million fine
Cargill, Skretting, BioMar and Salmofood had their offices raided in 2016 which was first reported by SalmonBusiness’ sister site Ilaks.
Briones – who serves Finance Minister in President Sebastián Piñera’s government – went into details how he felt there were limits surrounding the potential penalties outlined by Chile’s National Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE).
[Hilo] Esta semana, la Fiscalía Nacional Económica (FNE) acusó por colusión a 4 empresas de alimento para salmones. El cartel habría operado 12 años. Se trata de un robo, una acción que merece las máximas sanciones y que me permite hablarles hoy de este tipo de delitos…
— Ignacio Briones (@ignaciobriones_) December 22, 2019
Currently, if convicted, no-one in the company risks jail time because because of reforms carried out in 2016. But authorities are calling for a hefty USD 70 million fine split four ways.
To his 73.3K followers on Twitter, he said:
“This is a robbery, an action that deserves the maximum sanctions, ” he wrote.
“Collusion is the biggest crime against free competition, because it threatens consumers and their ability to access the best price and best quality. It also compromises public faith, trust and market legitimacy,” said Briones on Twitter.
In his opinion, “these violations of the law must be prosecuted and severely punished, including jail sentences and fines that must be well above the ill-gotten,” he added.