Tue, Mar 19, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Indian watchdog raids firms over pulse prices

Reuters, NEW DELHI

India’s antitrust watchdog on Saturday raided units of global commodities trader Glencore PLC and two other firms in Mumbai in an inquiry into alleged collusion on the price of pulses, four sources with knowledge of the raids told reporters.

More than 25 antitrust officials carried out the raids at the offices of local units of Glencore, Africa’s Export Trading Group and India’s Edelweiss group, which previously had a commodities business, two government sources said.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has been investigating allegations that the companies formed a cartel to discuss the pricing of pulses while importing and selling them in the Indian market at higher prices in 2015 and 2016, when India faced an acute shortage, the sources said.

A spokesman for Switzerland-based Glencore, Charles Watenphul, declined to comment, while Edelweiss, which sold its commodities trading business in November 2016, and the Export Trading Group did not respond to requests for comment.

Two years of drought in 2015 pushed up prices of pulses, such as chickpeas and black grams that are a staple of Indian cuisine, and forced New Delhi to offer duty-free imports, encouraging foreign and Indian traders who imported pulses to sell locally.

“The collusion by these companies led to higher prices of pulses,” one of the sources said, adding that the CCI’s inquiry started three months ago.

The investigation would also assess whether the companies have continued their alleged collusion even after the prices of pulses stabilized, the source said.

The raids on five company offices in India’s financial capital began on Friday and were concluded on Saturday.

Antitrust officials collected evidence, including documents and e-mails, and questioned company officials during the raids, a second government source said.

Another source, an industry executive, said that the CCI’s search involved going through company records at Glencore’s office in Mumbai, confirming that it was part of the watchdog’s probe into accusations of fixing import prices.

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