Two South Korean companies have agreed to pay a total of US$127 million for their involvement in a bid-rigging scheme in supplying fuel to U.S. military bases in the country, the Department of Justice said on Mar. 20, 2019.
Hyundai Oilbank Co. Ltd. and S-Oil Corp. -- both petroleum and refinery companies -- are accused of involvement in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition during the bidding process for fuel supply contracts with U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force bases in South Korea, the department said in a statement.
They have agreed to plead guilty and pay a total of approximately $75 million in criminal fines and some $52 million in separate civil resolutions.
"These charges reflect the Antitrust Division's commitment to prosecuting bid rigging and fraud — especially when those crimes directly target taxpayer dollars that fund the U.S. military's critical work," said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the department's Antitrust Division.
"We will not waver in our dedication to prosecuting corporations and individuals, wherever they are located, that seek to profit at the expense of American taxpayers."
The two companies are the latest to be charged in an ongoing investigation into the alleged bid rigging.
In November, three other South Korean oil companies -- SK Energy Co. Ltd., GS Caltex Corp. and Hanjin Transportation Co. Ltd. -- agreed to pay a total of $236 million to settle the charges.
The U.S. stations some 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
The alleged scheme began at least in or around March 2005 and continued into 2016, the department said in November, adding that as a result of it, the Department of Defense paid "substantially more" for fuel supply services.
In the indictment unsealed on Wednesday, the Justice Department also charged and named seven South Korean citizens for involvement in the case.
One suspect was charged with "tampering with a witness by use of intimidation, threats, or corrupt persuasion, with the intent to hinder, delay, and prevent communication with a law enforcement officer of the United States." (Yonhap)