TOKYO — Tokyo authorities raided the offices of three Japanese producers of polyacrylonitrile-based carbon fiber, extending the reach of an ongoing Justice Department investigation into antitrust allegations. The Tokyo district public prosecutor's office conducted the searches March 15 at Toray Industries Inc., Mitsubishi Rayon Co. Ltd. and Toho Rayon Co. Ltd. at the request of U.S. authorities.
"Our company is convinced that there is no truth to the allegations," Toray said in a news release.
Mitsubishi said it is cooperating with the investigation but did not comment further, and Toho declined comment.
The three firms produce a major portion of the world's PAN carbon fiber, but the production accounts for only a small percentage of sales for the broad-based Toray, Mitsubishi and Toho empires.
In January 1999, FBI agents raided U.S. offices of the three firms, and conducted similar visits gathering documents from several domestic producers and processors.
For about six months, the Justice Department's Antitrust Division led a Los Angeles federal grand jury probe of the entire carbon-fiber and pre-impregnated-material industries.
Apparently, the findings convinced Japanese authorities to approve the gathering of the companies' pertinent business records.
Rumors of price fixing and dumping have permeated the business in recent years.
Several material customers filed civil class-action lawsuits in July and August in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The suits allege illegal competitive practices by Japanese and domestic makers of carbon fiber and prepreg.