Entrepreneurs suspected of being part of the grain cartel must pay over 300,000 euros to the government

17.01.2024 | 10:24

The Prosecutor's Office resolved the criminal case brought by the Competition Authority against six companies and eight individuals suspected of entering into an agreement that distorts free competition. At the request of the Southern District Prosecutor's Office, Tartu County Court imposed financial penalties on the companies and seven individuals, and closed the proceedings applying the principle of opportunity. One individual remains in criminal proceedings.
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The Competition Authority has opened a criminal investigation due to the suspicion that between 2018 and 2019, various companies entered into an anti-competitive agreement concerning the market for grain dryers connected to subsidies by the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (Põllumajanduse Registrite ja Informatsiooni Amet, PRIA). In Estonia, a large part of the dryers are purchased with the subsidies by PRIA. To qualify for the subsidy, the farmer must submit at least three comparable price offers to PRIA. 

According to the suspicion, the companies agreed on the product market allocation and coordinated the sizes and prices of the offers to be made to their customers. During the proceedings, the Competition Authority raised a suspicion against six companies and eight individuals. As the suspects represent the major part of the merchants selling dryers in Estonia, the suspected impact of the agreement on the product market for grain dryers was significant. 

Margus Lellep, prosecutor of the Southern District Prosecutor's Office, explained that the aim of the criminal proceedings was to ensure that such acts as well as cooperation undermining free competition could be prevented in the future. "As all the companies were aware of their wrongdoing, they agreed to pay a total financial penalty of around 330,000 euro to the government. As one person did not agree to admit the violation and pay the financial penalty, the Prosecutor's Office brought charges against him and sent the criminal case to court," Lellep said.

The termination of criminal proceedings by applying the principle of opportunity means that, in the opinion of the Prosecutor's Office and the court, the acts described in the indictment have taken place, but for various reasons it is not absolutely necessary to punish the act as a criminal offence. The financial penalties imposed on the companies ranged between 9,500 and 100,000 euros. In total, financial penalties in the amount of 330,000 euros were imposed on six companies.

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