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EU fines IFF for obstructing investigation of suspected fragrance cartel

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Monday it had fined U.S. company International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) and its French affiliate 15.9 million euros ($17.05 million) for obstructing an inspection in an ongoing investigation of a suspected cartel in the supply of fragrances and fragrance ingredients.

"The Commission found that during the inspection (in March 2023), a senior employee of IFF intentionally deleted WhatsApp messages exchanged with a competitor," the Commission said.

"After the detection, IFF immediately acknowledged the facts and proactively cooperated with the Commission during and after the inspection. IFF cooperated by helping the Commission recover the deleted data."

The investigation of a suspected fragrance cartel, which was opened in March 2023 and also targets Swiss companies Givaudan and Firmenich International as well as German player Symrise, is ongoing, the Commission added.

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The companies have said they are cooperating with anti-cartel investigations - which are also being conducted in other jurisdictions - without commenting further, although Symrise has challenged the Commission's investigation in court.

($1 = 0.9327 euros)

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Mark Potter)