(Adds Bombardier comment)
By Gram Slattery
RIO DE JANEIRO, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Brazil’s antitrust authority Cade has recommended that a court convict 16 companies and 52 individuals over allegations they were involved in forming a cartel to fix bids for public train contracts across the central and southern parts of the country.
Cade said in a statement on Wednesday the companies, which include units of Mitsui & Co Ltd, Bombardier Inc , and Alstom SA, could pay up to 20 percent of their annual gross revenue if convicted, while individuals could pay fines of 50,000 to 2 billion reais ($13,000 to $514 million).
When it launched the probe here in 2014, Cade had said the cartel allegedly began in 1998 and its members had divided up tenders between themselves and "pretended there was competition, but had agreed previously on the prices of their bids."
The antitrust authority said the scheme included bids for metro and commuter trains in the cities of Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte.
Cade’s conclusions add to a list of corruption accusations that Brazilian authorities have levelled against companies across a range of industries in recent years, leading to the downfall of many powerful executives and politicians.
“The evidence collected throughout the investigation allows us to conclude that the companies and their employees interfered with the results of at least 27 projects,” Cade said.
The antitrust body said among the other companies involved were local units of Balfour Beatty Plc, Construccion y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles SA (CAF) and Hyundai-Rotem, part of Hyundai Motor Co.
A representative for Alstom said the firm would review Cade’s report and take the “appropriate legal measures,” adding that the company was committed to ethical business principles.
Bombardier in Brazil denied wrongdoing and said the company had cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with authorities.
Representatives for Hyundai, CAF and Balfour Beatty did not respond to requests for comment. Mitsui in Brazil could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bombardier Transportation Brazil said in 2014 it believed the firm and its employees complied with the law and the firm’s code of ethics. It said it would cooperate with the probe.
As part of the investigation, Cade signed a plea bargain with Siemens AG, after the company voluntarily self-reported its alleged involvement in the price-fixing scheme to Brazilian authorities in 2013 to lessen its responsibility.
A Siemens representative said the company was cooperating with the Brazilian authorities and did not comment on ongoing investigations.
$1 = 3.8909 reais Reporting by Gram Slattery Editing by Edmund Blair and Paul Simao