FIRMS IN construction cartels accused of bid-rigging have been given a last chance by the Of ce of Fair Trading (OFT) to avoid prosecution and a possible prison sentence.
A two-year investigation by the OFT has uncovered anticompetitive deals worth £3bn by 57 companies in the Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside.
Companies found guilty of anti-competitive practices could face nes of up to 10% of their global turnover. Company executives face five years in prison.
However, a firm that pleads guilty before the case goes to trial could receive immunity from both fines and prosecution. Of the 57 companies investigated, 37 have applied for leniency by admitting their part in the corrupt activities and fully co-operating with all investigations.
The OFT has written to the remaining 20 companies, offering them reduced penalties of about 5% of global turnover, in return for their admission and co-operation.
Forms of bid-rigging, include 'cover pricing', where competitors agree their prices between one another to ensure that a certain rm wins the job The OFT also found evidence of 'bungs' passed between competitors to rig prices.
According to an OFT spokesperson, investigations were instigated by clients procuring construction projects.
Although the OFT would not confirm the projects or schemes involved it said that it was not specically investigating highway maintenance, civil engineering or large infrastructure schemes.