SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil has opened legal proceedings against several major international companies accused of fixing prices for the construction and upkeep of public transportation systems in five cities.
The country's antitrust agency said in a Thursday statement it will investigate the bidding process for contracts on subway and train systems of Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro.
The statement from the Administrative Council for Economic Defense, known as CADE, said 18 companies were part of a cartel involved in 15 projects valued at $4 billion.
Among the companies cited in the statement were Germany's Siemens, CAF of Spain, Mitsui of Japan, Bombardier of Canada and Alstom of France.
"Alstom is obviously taking these allegations very seriously, and is carrying out its own thorough investigation," the company said in a statement.
It said it would not have further comment because investigations are still ongoing.
Siemens said it has "zero tolerance for any kind of illegal conduct and has been collaborating" in the investigations.
"We believe the investigations will lead to a more ethical and transparent business environment in Brazil," the company said in an emailed statement.
Mitsui and Bombardier also said they would cooperate. CAF did not have any immediate comment.
CADE said the companies used several anticompetitive strategies, such as the prearrangement of offers tendered in bidding processes. At times, it said, the cartel would also determine which company would win a bid by allowing only one to tender an offer.
In 2013, Siemens struck a plea agreement with authorities and denounced the existence of the price-fixing scheme, CADE's statement said.
The companies that allegedly formed part of the cartel will be summoned to present their defense, the CADE statement said. It is unclear when they will be summoned.