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EU inspectors probing possible sea freight cartels

(BRUSSELS) - Inspectors have made surprise checks of sea transport firms in several EU countries as part of an international probe into suspected cartels, the European Commission said Friday.

The statement said officials had Thursday made "unannounced inspections at the premises of several providers of maritime transport services for cars and construction and agricultural rolling machinery".

The European operation took place in coordination with US and Japanese authorities, the statement added.

The inspections were authorised because officials believed that the companies targetted may have been involved in cartels and restrictive business practices in violation of EU law, said the Commission.

But it added: "The fact that the European Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour; nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself."

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