February 17 - A Statement of Objections relating to a price-fixing investigation of their air freight forwarding activities has been sent by the European Union to a number of prominent freight forwarding companies.

The allegations concern four separate infringements involving the provision of freight forwarding services from the UK to outside the European Economic Area (EEA), from the EEA to the US, from China to the EEA and from southern China/Hong Kong to the EEA. The probe reached a crescendo when the offices of a number of prominent forwarderswere raided in October 2007.

A Statement of Objections is a formal step in commission antitrust investigations in which it informs the parties concerned in writing of the objections raised against them.

"The commission is investigating allegations that these companies fixed prices by colluding on the imposition, level, timing and application of various surcharges, in breach of Article 101 of the (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union)," the EU said.

The EU is working with the U.S. Justice Department and the Swiss Competition Commission on the investigation. The Australian and Canadian governments were also involved but have closed their investigations.

In a press statement, Deutsche Post DHL's Global Forwarding division confirmed that it was among the companies having received a copy of the Statement of Objections. DHL Global Forwarding also confirmed that it has been cooperating with the European Commission in connection with this investigation.

DHL Global Forwarding cooperation began after the Company became aware, during the course of an internal investigation that activities potentially raising concerns under the competition laws may have occurred. Deutsche Post AG and relevant subsidiaries, as part of its cooperation, have been granted immunity from prosecution and fines by the European Commission conditional upon DHL Global Forwarding continued cooperation.

Meanwhile in the USA Kuwait-based logistics company Agility is reported to have entered a plea of not guilty in a federal court in Atlanta over allegations of fraud by the U.S. Justice Department - see news item posted on this website on November 18th 2009.

Agility is reported to be pressing forward with negotiations to settle the case out of court. The US government indicted Agility in November 2009 on multiple charges of alleged conspiracy and fraud relating to three major contracts to supply food to US troops in Iraq, Kuwait and Jordan between 2003 and 2005.