Secret meetings described to ADM jurors Prosecutors call their final witness in market-rigging case

Antitrust

August 27, 1998|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Wrapping up their case in the antitrust trial of three Archer Daniels Midland Co. executives, federal prosecutors used their last witness yesterday to highlight key moments in the alleged conspiracy.

Masaru Yamamoto, a midlevel executive of Japan's Kyowa Hakko Kogyo, described secret meetings from Mexico City and Paris to Tokyo and Atlanta, where he said price-fixing and the divvying-up of sales occurred.

Ninth witness

Yamamoto, the government's ninth and final witness since the trial opened in mid-July, appeared to back up testimony by the first witness, Kanji Mimoto of Ajinomoto Co.

Under questioning by prosecutor James Griffin, Yamamoto said the world's five producers of the livestock feed-additive lysine completed their effort to rig the $650 million market in early 1994, after two years of negotiations.

The scheme is said to have ended in June 1995, when FBI agents raided the producers' U.S. offices.

ADM executives Michael Andreas and Terry Wilson and former FBI mole Mark Whitacre are accused of violating antitrust law in the case.

$100 million fine

The Decatur, Ill.-based company pleaded guilty in 1996 and paid a $100 million fine.

Both Yamamoto and his company also pleaded guilty, paid fines and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Attorneys for Wilson and Andreas have said their clients met with Yamamoto and other Asian lysine executives merely to gather information about the market -- not to make illicit deals.

And the defense attorneys have said ADM opened a huge lysine plant in 1991 to make the market more, not less, competitive.

During cross-examination of Yamamoto yesterday afternoon, Wilson attorney Mark Hulkower asked, "[Did] the size of ADM's plant cause you concern?"

Yamato replied, "Yes. Already, the price was down sharply."

Hulkower continued, "It would cause great confusion of the type not seen before in the lysine market?"

"Yes," Yamamoto answered.

Much of the government's strongest evidence came early in the trial, when prosecutors played secretly recorded videotapes of meetings involving ADM executives and their supposed competitors.

In recent weeks, jurors heard testimony from Barrie Cox, a current ADM executive, who detailed how the company fixed the price of citric acid, a common food additive.

Prosecutors have said that ADM executives used their citric-acid conspiracy as a model for the lysine scheme.

Cox told jurors that ADM and its European competitors in citric acid used official meetings of a trade association to provide cover for illicit, antitrust meetings.

Yesterday, prosecutors showed a 10-minute video clip of a meeting in Hawaii where officials of the lysine producers appear to discuss forming a trade association for the same reason.

"It's a perfect cover," Wilson told the group on tape. Wilson's attorneys have said some of his recorded statements were bluffs.

Trial resumes today

The trial before U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning resumes this morning with additional cross-examination of Yamamoto.

The defendants could begin calling witnesses or testifying on their own behalf as soon as Monday morning.

But defense attorneys made no promises in their opening statements to jurors, leaving their options open.

Pub Date: 8/27/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.