German prosecutors probe steel cartel allegations

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German prosecutors and the anti-cartel office said Thursday they were investigating 10 steel companies suspected of colluding to set high prices for the sale of rails to the Deutsche Bahn railway company.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office in the western town of Bochum said some 30 people, representing 10 steel sector firms, were being probed in connection with possible overspending of several hundred millions euros (dollars) by the national rail company, Deutsche Bahn.

The regional WAZ newspaper reported the cartel was in place for about 10 years until 2008.

Its members regularly met in a Duisburg pizzeria which hit the headlines in 2007 because of a bloody shoot-out between members of the Italian mafia.

Members of the cartel gave each other nicknames, including "little brother", "Hannibal Lecter" and "Domina", the newspaper said.

"As soon as the investigation gives us a precise idea about the cartel we shall look at ways of going after its members," Gerd Becht, head of Deutsche Bahn legal affairs, said in a statement.

Austrian steel giant Voestalpine in May acknowledged it was being investigated for alleged price-fixing in the rail market.

© 2011 AFP

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